Wishing you all a Happy and Turkey-Filled Thanksgiving!
The winner has been drawn – and the winner is A. Marie! I will email you and get your information for Brenda, who will send the book directly to you. Thank you all for participating!
And hearty thanks to Brenda for sharing your thoughts with us and for offering the book giveaway. For those who didn’t win, buy the book! – it will make a fine addition to your Jane Austen Collection.
c2022Jane Austen in Vermont
The Blog Tour for Godmersham Park: A Novel of the Austen Family by Gill Hornby began on October 24 and runs through November 7, 2022. A work of biographical historical fiction, it is a richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became very close with Jane Austen and her family. In 2020, Hornby published the acclaimed Miss Austen, about Cassandra Austen, and PBS /Masterpiece has recently announced it is to be a mini-series. We can only hope for the same about this newest work. I am hard at work on casting the major roles…who would you choose to play these characters??
Summary and Advance Praise:
On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess to Edward and Elizabeth Austen’s daughter Fanny, but also often expected to supervise the other children as well. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go. Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge—twelve-year-old Fanny Austen—Anne’s arrival is all novelty and excitement.
The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the “upstairs” and “downstairs” members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard.
When members of the Austen family come to visit, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming, and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent, mistress can hardly fail to notice.
Meanwhile Jane’s brother Henry begins to take an unusually strong interest in the lovely young governess. And from then on, Anne’s days at Godmersham Park are numbered.
- “This is a deeply imagined and deeply moving novel. Reading it made me happy and weepy in equally copious amounts…I read it straight through without looking up.”— Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Bookclub
- Hornby’s skillful mix of fact and fiction captures the complexities of the Austens and their era, and her crisp, nimble prose sparkles throughout. Best of all, Hornby genuinely channels the sentiment of 19th-century English literature. Janeites aren’t the only readers who will relish this smart, tender tale.”— Publishers Weekly, starred review
- “…a well-written and delightfully observant novel…an excellent read.”— The Historical Novel Society
Godmersham Park begins:
“At half past six, in the bleak icy evening of 21 January in the year 1804, Anne Sharp arrived on the threshold of Godmersham Park.” [p.3]
Anne Sharp stayed for two years… In the Author’s Note at the end of the novel, Hornby writes of the known details of Sharp’s life after she leaves her post and her continued correspondence with Jane Austen and the occasional but all too rare visit. Nothing is known about Sharp’s life before her taking on her governess post, and this novel gives the reader a fine grounding in how life as a governess in a fine house would have played out – all this based on real contemporary biographies of young women thrust into a working life. Fanny’s daily diary entries gave Hornby the true details of the Edward Austen’s home-life, and she brilliantly weaves all into a more than probable tale of Anne Sharp’s time at Godmersham. It is an endearing and warm-hearted tale, at times a tad melancholy, brightened by the growing and real-life friendship between Austen and Sharp, both creative and spirited women. The sprinkling of literary allusions to Austen and other 19th-century writers makes it all the more delightful.
Without giving anything away, I will only add Austen’s own exclamation about her brother: “Oh! what a Henry” [Ltr. 102, 23 June 1814] – and leave it for you, dear reader, to find out what I mean!
What is known about Sharp is all pieced together from various sources – I’ll work up a bibliography of these for another post, as this book will surely peak your interest to know more about this dear friend of Austen’s. One bit to savor is that Sharp’s own copy of Emma, given to her by Austen through her publisher, was treasured by Sharp throughout her life – it just sold once again at auction for £375,000 [it had sold in 2008 for nearly £200,000 – a fine investment indeed] – this copy will be on display at Chawton House in 2023, thanks to the generosity of the anonymous purchaser. [You can read about this here.]
An Excerpt from Chapter XI [p 81-85]:
‘Miss Sharp!’ Fanny burst into the Godmersham attic. ‘Look!’ She brandished a letter. ‘All that time, I was expecting to hear by the morning post, and it came by the evening.’
They both studied the paper, weighed up its width and its quality, ran their eyes over it to judge the length of what was written upon it. ‘In my mind’s eye, I had seen myself receiving it at breakfast and reading it there, just as Mama does. I mean, like a proper young lady.’ She worried at her lip. ‘But now is just as good, is it not?’
‘I should say it is a fine time for the reading of letters,’ Anne reassured her. ‘A lovely end to the day. And remember, my dear, if this is to be a full correspondence, you can look forward to more in the future . . .’
Fanny breathed out. ‘You are so right. I am beginning to think, Miss Sharp, that you are in the habit of being right on all matters. So, what happens now?’
Anne was becoming a little concerned by her pupil’s over-keen sense of deference. If they went on like this, Fanny would soon be incapable of putting one foot in front of the other without appealing for guidance. ‘I suggest that you read it?’
‘Oh,’ Fanny gave a little laugh. ‘Of course! Shall we do so together?’
‘No, my dear,’ replied Anne, though she was not un- intrigued. ‘This is to you.’
Fortunately, Fanny – who was one of the world’s greatest sharers – chose to read it out loud:
My dear Fanny,
Your letter occasioned such joy among all in your Bath family – but in me, in particular. I cannot imagine what I have done to deserve such an honour – and nor can your superior aunt, my dear sister. When the post came for me, there was a danger that she might drop dead from sheer jealousy, but I quickly revived her with my shrewd observation – Cassandra is harder to spell and consumes too much ink. God bless my short, simple name!
We all marvelled at hearing your Godmersham news, and you have the advantage of me. How can my dull existence compare with the revelation that you have a new governess? It is clear she is a woman of substance for your pen was clear and the contents quite perfect. If you are so kind as to reply to me now, please do us the favour of addressing the following concerns. We all long to know what books you are reading – in particular, which poets? Your grandfather desires that you acquire a sound basis in Shakespeare and, as always – he cannot be helped – issues a plea on behalf of the Classics. Is your Miss S. – among her other perfections – strong in the Classics? If so, then she is truly a paragon.
As you know, your Grandmama has been most unwell and the worry and fear has kept us at home more than is usual. But I am here to report she is now well on the mend, and her spirits returned to their usual height. It cannot be long before we return to the social round. Though I am relieved that the illness is over, I cannot rejoice at being turned out of doors. The streets of Bath are made so dirty by this dreadful wet weather – it keeps one in a perpetual state of inelegance.
We all look forward to hearing from you again, and pray you send our love to all of the Godmersham family.
Your fond Aunt, Jane Austen.
Each expressed their delight in tones of great rapture and agreed it to be one of the greatest – possibly the best – letter yet to be written. Fanny read it twice more, so as to be thoroughly sure, before disappearing down to the library to share it anew. Anne, at last, was able to pick up her own pen, and then Sally came in.
The sullen maid of Anne’s first evening had warmed into a garrulous creature and now, while Anne sat alone working, Sally would work alongside her. Her clear philosophy was that, while the hands toiled at tidying and cleaning, the tongue should not idle.
‘What is it you’re up to there, miss?’ She was sifting through Fanny’s drawers and refolding the inexpertly folded. ‘Another letter, is it? You do write a lot of letters and no mistake.’ She came and looked over Anne’s shoulder. Anne covered her page. ‘Don’t worry about that, miss. All scribbles to me.’
‘You cannot read or write, Sally?’ Anne felt that glorious, prickling anticipation of a new project. ‘Would you like me to teach you? When is your afternoon off? I am sure I could spare a few hours every week.’ She was quite magnificent in her own generosity.
‘Ta, miss, but I’m right as I am.’ Sally went back to her work. ‘My afternoons off are my afternoons off, thanking you very much. I go out on the gad, then, with Becky.’ Anne picked up her pen again, crushed. Suddenly intrigued, she put it back down. ‘You must be most expert gadders to find any gadding to be had in Godmersham, surely?’ The village did not even have a shop, let alone a High Street. Anne had found no amusements beyond solitary walks. How does one even begin to gad in a field? ‘You’d be surprised, miss. There’s some new lads down at the tithe barn.’ Sally gave a little shriek. ‘Ooh, but we do like a laugh with them.’
‘And Mrs Salkeld does not object?’ Anne herself could never be so brave as to incur the wrath of the housekeeper.
Sally shrugged her thin shoulders. ‘If she does, she daren’t say so. We’re still young, miss. Got to enjoy yourself, haven’t you? It’s only a job, after all. If they stopped me, I’d tell them to stick it.’
Anne paused to reflect on their relative positions. She was certainly paid more, but Sally – with her uniform and its upkeep provided – had fewer expenses. Sally enjoyed hours off in the day and the companionship of life in the servants’ hall; Anne belonged neither to staff nor family, was almost always on duty and, when not, entirely alone. It appeared that a maid could make an exhibition of herself abroad and it was tolerated, yet if a governess were to attract even the eye of a gentleman, she would face instant dismissal. The comparison provided food for thought on the question of privilege and the cost of its benefits.
About the Author: Gill Hornby is the author of the novels Miss Austen, The Hive, and All Together Now, as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children.
You can find her on:
Where you can buy a copy:
- Publisher: Pegasus Books (November 1, 2022) – the US publisher
- Length: 416 pages
- Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook
- ISBN: 978-1639362585
[Excerpt reproduced with permission of the author]
©2022, Jane Austen in Vermont
Today’s post is about Brenda Cox and her just-published Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England. You can follow the other blog posts on this tour here. [See at the end of this post for information on the giveaway.]
A few thoughts: I was honored when Brenda asked me to write a blurb for the cover, and I repeat that here with a few additional thoughts. I would first say that I have read a few works on Austen and religion, all of them enlightening in their own way. We do need to have some inkling of this religious world Austen grew up in, and the religion she practiced, to see that dimension in her writing. I am a born and raised Episcopalian [my parents were Anglican] and much of what Brenda writes in her book was very superficially known to me, at least those parts about the Church hierarchy, prayers and liturgy and hymns. What was enlightening was how Brenda wove all the details of the Church itself, and its spiritual foundations into a fuller understanding of what Jane Austen is actually saying in her novels, in the plots, the characters, and the settings – this book is a compelling read and you won’t look at the novels and the characters in the same way ever again. Just the tables, definitions, and references alone are worth the price of admission.
Fashionable Goodness is a meticulously researched, faultlessly organized, and engaging study of how religion, in all its forms, features in Jane Austen’s world, her life, and her writings.
Starting with Henry Tilney’s famous defense of “the English” in Northanger Abbey, Cox reveals the facts of Jane Austen’s faith, the realities and challenges of practicing religion in the Regency period, and with biographical sketches of the leading religious leaders and analysis of the various denominations of the time, she puts into context the explicit and subtle religious references in Austen’s novels. This Christian world permeates Austen’s writings and a fuller understanding of the Church and its clerical hierarchy and the emphasis on living a moral “good” life will open up a clearer view of Austen’s plots, characters, and underlying themes. You will look at Mr. Collins, the Crawfords and the Dashwoods, the Tilneys, the Wickhams and Willoughbys, all the “good” and the “not so good” people that populate the novels (and especially Fanny Price!) with new and surprising insights. Bravo to Brenda Cox for giving us this very accessible illuminating take on the “fashionable goodness” of Austen’s era.
An Excerpt from the first chapter, beginning as I say above with my favorite Hero, Henry Tilney:
“Jane Austen’s England, A Foreign Country (Foreign to Modern Readers)”
“Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians.”—Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey, ch. 24
How can we understand “the country and the age” in which Jane Austen lived? Her society is poles apart from our modern world, despite some points of similarity. As L. P. Hartley insightfully begins a novel set in 1900 [The Go-Between], “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” The world of Austen’s novels is foreign to us, whether we live in the United States, modern England, or elsewhere. To enter this “foreign country,” the civilization that spawned Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and Emma Woodhouse, we need to learn its language and culture. While we may interpret Austen’s timeless novels according to our own experiences and values, we can enjoy them more deeply as we get to know Austen’s world.
Religious practices and values influenced many aspects of Austen’s culture. For example, in politics, the Church of England was (and is) the national church of England; the Pilgrims and Puritans fled to America to escape its authority. The sovereign was the head of the church, bishops and archbishops were members of the House of Lords, and Parliament made laws regulating worship, the clergy, and churches. From 1810 to 1820 (the Regency), the Prince Regent governed the country because of his father’s illness. Jane Austen disapproved of the Regent’s immoral lifestyle, but when he asked her to dedicate Emma to him, she respectfully complied, since it was her duty as a Christian to obey her country’s leader.
Religious values also guided family relationships. Honoring one’s parents was an important religious duty, given in the Ten Commandments in the Bible and elaborated in the Church of England catechism. In Mansfield Park, Edmund and Fanny are shocked by Mary’s disrespect for her uncle who raised her; Mary is showing poor moral values (ch. 7). Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice carries this to a ridiculous extreme when he delays reconciling with his cousins out of respect for his father’s memory, since his father was at odds with them (ch. 13). Disrespect toward a husband or wife was also considered immoral. In Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby shows his poor character by criticizing his wife, and Elinor rebukes him (ch. 44).
As Laura Mooneyham White points out in Jane Austen’s Anglicanism, the “foundational worldview” of modern Christians, including modern Anglicans, differs radically from the worldview of the Georgian-era Anglican Church. Because of this, we may miss some of the deeper dimensions of Austen’s novels….
To understand the church’s pervasive influence in Austen’s world, we also need to recognize some the issues it was facing. Edmund Bertram and Mary Crawford argue about several: clergy without a calling, clergy who did not live in their parishes, and “fashionable goodness.” Was it enough to follow the fashions of the city and show up at church on Sundays, ignoring religion the rest of the week? Or, as new movements in the church stressed, should people seek a personal relationship with God that affected their hearts and behavior? Even for Mr. Darcy, being “given good principles” – knowing theoretical religious truths – was insufficient to make him a man Elizabeth could respect and marry…
Jane Austen’s religious beliefs, and the beliefs of her society, are often overlooked. She does not talk as openly about religion as today’s Christian writers do, or even as some of her contemporaries did. And yet, as Henry Tilney points out, being “Christian” was part of the English identity. Jane Austen’s personal identity was also Christian, as we shall see in the next chapter. In the rest of the book, we’ll explore the crucial part Christianity played in Austen’s stories and in her world. In Austen’s England, morality came directly from religion….
From Fashionable Goodness, Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, by Brenda S. Cox, Topaz Cross Books. © Brenda S. Cox 2022, used by permission.
Author interview: I asked Brenda a few questions about why she wrote this book and how it has affected her reading of Austen:
DEB: You have said you titled the book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, because during Austen’s time, it was fashionable to attend church and pretend to be “good,” but that the immorality of the Prince Regent and others seemed more fashionable, leading the influential William Wilberforce and others to try to reform “manners” [meaning behavior] – Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park explains that “manners” meant behavior, how people acted based on their religious principles. So I would ask you: which of Austen’s novels focuses most on the church and this idea of “manners”?
BRENDA: Mansfield Park, hands down. Edmund and Mary Crawford discuss the importance of the clergy (those responsible for “all that is of the first importance to mankind”). Edmund and Henry Crawford discuss preaching and leading church services. Fanny, physically weak, displays great moral strength in refusing to marry an “unprincipled” (irreligious) man. Also, godly traditional values are contrasted with the immorality of the city. I appreciate Mansfield Park far more than I did before, now that I understand its religious background.
DEB: Your book is packed with information, from how the Church of England is organized, the challenges the church faced during Austen’s time, and the legacy it still holds for us. How did you decide to organize it?
BRENDA: My background is in engineering, and I tried to structure Fashionable Goodness logically. It starts, of course, with Jane Austen and her novels. We look at things like her personal faith, the lives of her clergymen, and worship during her time. Two chapters address how some of the church’s values played out in everyday life, particularly in the areas of marriage and divorce, and in scientific advances.
Part 2 then looks at challenges to Austen’s Church of England. Some of those, like the system of patronage and different levels of clergymen, are addressed in the novels. Others, like the Methodist movement and the place of different economic groups and races in the church, give background. I wove in fascinating stories of men and women leaders of the time.
As I saw how the church was making an impact on the country and the world, I added Part 3. It shows the impact of committed Christians of Austen’s era, ranging from the abolition of the slave trade to the Sunday school movement that educated millions of poor children and adults, breaking cycles of poverty and dependence.
DEB: What spiritual messages do you think Austen was trying to convey through her novels?
BRENDA: Austen always promoted moral behavior. But she didn’t do it by preaching and telling people what to do. Instead, she showed examples, both positive and negative. Readers of Pride and Prejudice, for instance, might learn to avoid judging and ridiculing other people. We might instead want to be more like Jane Bennet, assuming the best of others until the worst is clearly proven. (This was a religious virtue called candour in Austen’s time; posts on my blog explore this and other “faith words.”)
DEB: Which of her novels speaks most strongly to you personally?
BRENDA: Usually my favorite Austen novel, and the one that speaks to me most, is whichever one I have read most recently. Right now that is Sense and Sensibility, which I’ve read repeatedly in the months leading up to the JASNA AGM. It has made me more aware of emotions and their effect on us and other people. We can express our emotions selfishly, as Marianne did, not caring how we make others feel. Or we can recognize them in ourselves, as Elinor did, and choose ways to respond that do not hurt our loved ones. In this, Elinor was doing her Christian “duty,” to love her neighbour as herself. However, I also think Austen put Elinor in a worst-case scenario. Elinor’s promise to Lucy made it impossible for Elinor to tell her family what she felt. In other circumstances she might have shared her pain with her family in healthy ways.
About the Author: Brenda S. Cox has loved Jane Austen since she came across a copy of Emma as a young adult; she went out and bought a whole set of the novels as soon as she finished it! She has spent years researching the church in Austen’s England, visiting English churches and reading hundreds of books and articles, including many written by Austen’s contemporaries. She speaks at Jane Austen Society of North America meetings (including three AGMs) and writes for Persuasions On-Line [JASNA journal) and the websites Jane Austen’s World and Brenda’s own blog Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. You can find bonus material on the book here as well.
Where to Buy:
Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is now available from Jane Austen Books and Amazon. [The link for international Amazon purchases is here: https://mybook.to/FashionableGoodness ]
Brenda is offering a book giveaway [paperback or ebook] – Please comment below or ask Brenda a question [she will respond here] by Wednesday November 9 and you will be entered into the random drawing for a copy [there are some limitations to worldwide shipping] – I will announce the winner on November 10th. Here are some prompts for commenting, or please ask your own.
1. What is one character trait you think Jane Austen most valued, based on her novels?
2. Who is your favorite clergyman or clergyman’s wife from Austen’s novels? And why?
3. What is one question you have about the church in Austen’s England, or the church and clergy in her novels?
*[N.B.: The giveaway is limited to addresses in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, or Italy for a print copy of the book. The author can only send a giveaway ebook to a US address. (However, both the ebook and paperack are available for sale to customers from any of these countries, and some others that have amazon.)
©2022, Jane Austen in Vermont
Head-up everyone! The blog tour for Brenda Cox’s just released Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England begins today. I will be posting more on October 25th along with a giveaway, but here are a few thoughts as to what this book has to offer and how it will enlarge your understanding of Jane Austen’s world:
Jane Austen transports us to a world of elegance and upheaval. The Church of England, at the heart of her life and her world, is key to understanding her stories. Readers may wonder:
- Why could Mr. Collins, a rector, afford to marry a poor woman, while Mr. Elton, a vicar, could not?
- What conflicting religious duties led Elizabeth Bennet to turn down two marriage proposals?
- Why did Mansfield Park’s early readers (unlike most today) love Fanny Price?
- What part did people of color, like Miss Lambe of Sanditon, play in English society?
- How did Austen’s church impact people’s lives and the world?
Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England answers these questions and many more. It explores:
- Austen’s Church of England, as we see it in her novels,
- Challenges the church was facing, reflected in her stories, and
- Ways the church in Austen’s England transformed England and the world.
Comprehensive, yet affordable and easy to read, Fashionable Goodness will help you see Austen’s beloved novels and characters in richer and deeper ways.
Here is the tour schedule – check back each day for the updated links:
Oct. 20: Jane Austen’s World, Vic Sanborn, Interview with the author [live today!]
Oct. 21: My Jane Austen Book Club, Maria Grazia, Giveaway and Guest Post, “Sydney Smith, Anglican Clergyman and Proponent of Catholic Rights, Potential Model for Henry Tilney”
Oct. 22: Clutching My Pearls, Lona Manning, Book Review
Oct. 23: Jane Austen Daily on Facebook, “Austen and Her Nephews Worship (1808)” – scroll down for the post
Oct. 25: Jane Austen in Vermont, Deborah Barnum, Giveaway, Excerpt from Chapter 1, and Book Review
Oct. 25: Jane Austen and Fashionable Goodness, History, Real Life and Faith, Michelle Ule, Book Review
Oct. 27: Australasian Christian Writers, Donna Fletcher Crow, Guest Post, “Seven Things Historical Fiction Writers Should Know about the Church of England”
Oct. 30: Regency History, Andrew Knowles, Book Review and Video Interview
Nov. 1: So Little Time, So Much to Read!, Candy Morton, Guest Post, “Women as Religious Leaders in Austen’s England”
Nov. 2: Austen Variations, Shannon Winslow, Interview, Excerpt from Chapter 7, “The Clergyman’s Wife”
Nov. 3: Laura’s Reviews, Laura Gerold, Book Review
Nov. 7: The Authorized Version, Donna Fletcher Crow, Book Review and Excerpt
Nov. 8: Julie Klassen, Book Review and Guest Post, “Jane Austen at Church”
Jan. 10: The Calico Critic, Laura Hartness, Book Review
- “Finally! Fashionable Goodness is the Jane Austen reference book that’s been missing from the bookshelves of every Austen fan and scholar.” ~ Rachel Dodge, bestselling author of Praying with Jane
- “Brenda Cox’s Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is an indispensable guide to all things religious in Jane Austen’s world.” ~ Roger E. Moore, Vanderbilt University, author of Jane Austen and the Reformation
- “This scholarly, detailed work is a triumph. Easily read, helpful and accurate, it provides a fascinating panorama of 18th century Anglicanism and the various challenges the Church and wider society faced. Cox’s many insights will enrich readers’ understanding and appreciation of Jane Austen’s novels and her life as a devout Christian.”~ The Revd. Canon Michael Kenning, vice-chairman of the Jane Austen Society (U. K.) and former rector of Steventon
Where to Buy:
Enjoy the tour!
©2022 Jane Austen in Vermont
You are cordially invited to the upcoming JASNA-South Carolina Region event at the Bluffton Library on November 5th. Co-sponsored by the Friends of the Bluffton Library. Hope you can join us!
When: Saturday, November 5, 2022, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
What: Talk on “Gender and the Decorative Arts in Jane Austen’s Novels” with Kristen Miller Zohn*
Where: Bluffton Library, 120 Palmetto Way, Bluffton, SC
During the Georgian period, women and men alike had a great interest in architecture, interior design, and fashion, and there was an expectation that the concepts of femininity and masculinity would be reflected in these spheres. This slide lecture will present images of decorative arts, interior design, and clothing to explore how those that are presented in Austen’s novels speak to the roles of women and men in her era.
*Kristen Miller Zohn is the Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Lauren, Mississippi, as well as the Executive Director of the Costume Society of America.
Please RSVP: jasnavermont [at] gmail.com or the Bluffton Library, 843-255-6503
c2022 Jane Austen in Vermont
The trailer was a travesty – many people I know said that alone convinced them to not watch this new Persuasion, now streaming on Netflix since last Friday. There have been so many negative reviews, one can only lament all the money spent, all the talent squandered, and settle for visions of Dear Jane doing the proverbial role in her grave…
BUT, I say, give it a chance, watch it with an open mind, pretend you are an Austen newbie and look at it all with not-so-knowledgeable eyes – can you do this and find some redeeming moments that somehow harken to the original story??
I didn’t read any of the reviews before viewing it the other day [on my computer I confess because I am on the road with no Netflix on a bigger screen – though I don’t think the smaller screen affected my liking / disliking the movie…] – I didn’t want to be swayed, though the headlines alone were enough to know how the wind blows – it is FASHIONABLE now to dislike this movie, and so it goes, one after the other of people weighing in on this great mess.
Bottom line is that I neither loved nor hated it, but I fall somewhere in-between, finding that spending a bit of time with Jane Austen, despite the various missteps, is always a fine way to while away an afternoon…
I shall make a list of the pros [a few] and cons [a lot], the best way to approach this rather than a full-on review, because I think most of us will say the exact same thing. I should start by saying that Persuasion has long been my favorite Austen novel – I love the story, the romance of second chances with the pain of Anne suffering through eight years of longing and regret with the subtle hints that Wentworth has suffered likewise. I love Austen’s usual satirical eye on class distinctions, and those not willing to see a changing world of honor and merit. And Austen’s ever-present humor – are there any better characters than Sir Walter Elliot and Mary Musgrove and Austen’s take on the ridiculous snobbery of the lot of them?
A few friends have already shared their very strong feelings about this film – I am reminded of the horror that first accompanied the 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen – PIGS in the kitchen! Mr. Darcy has a mullet [and chest hair!]! Elizabeth Bennet looks too much like Keira Knightley! [i.e. too modern for the early 19th century] – it went on and on…and so we are here once again with complaints that THIS MOVIE IS NOT THE BOOK! But one friend, who is not an Austenhead, found the movie “quite enjoyable,” despite Capt. Wentworth “a little sappy” [can anything work if Wentworth is “sappy”??] – so it comes down to what you know – have you read the book? Have you seen the 1995 film with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds [in my view the most perfect of all the Austen film adaptations]? Do you know your Austen backwards and forwards and can quote her willy-nilly in appropriate conversations? [my favorite: “Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.” (S&S).] Do you get / appreciate the narrative voice that brings that ironic humor to all her writings? And on it goes…
Any adaptation is just one person’s vision of their Jane Austen [well, along with producers, screenwriters, directors, actors, etc.!]– there will never be one size that fits all. Your Captain Wentworth will not be MY Captain Wentworth. But, I’m a firm believer in any Austen film that brings people to the books, and if this 21st century version of Persuasion can do that for a whole new generation, then kudos all around. These new readers will be pleasantly surprised how deep and meaningful the novel is in comparison [or they’ll throw it across the room in disgust at the long wordy sentences and lack of any kissing…]
So, onto my lists: [SPOILERS ABOUND!!]
1. The Narrator: the use of a voiceover or Dakota Johnson speaking directly to the viewer serves to bring Austen’s all-important narrative voice into the tale. So much in the book cannot be conveyed via dialogue, and I understand the screenwriter using this device to solve the problem [the major Con is that too often Anne is saying / doing things that are not in the text at all, and not Anne-like in the least – more on this in the CONS] – but I like this aspect of being able to get inside Anne’s head – this is her story after all…past, present, and future.
2. The Settings: magnificent as expected, Kellynch Hall just lovely, landscape scenery perfection [Sir Walter’s concerns about his “shrubberies” are valid!]; Lyme Regis and Bath locations [not enough of Bath in my view] serve the story well…and I would like to visit the Harville house, the Elliot home in Bath, and the Bath shop once again… [you can view the various locations here: https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/netflix-persuasion-filming-locations-37107090 ]
3. The Fashions: I liked the simplicity of all, especially Anne’s – a complete 180 from the over-the-top costumes on the 2020 Emma. These understated fashions seemed more realistic but likely not as engaging for all the Austen fashionistas out there.
4. The Dialogue: this is mostly a CON as you will see, but I must give applause to those very few lines that were taken directly from the novel [what a novel idea!]
5. The Casting: I applaud the casting without any complaint. Dakota Johnson, seemingly in EVERY scene, is so lovely to look at [more on her HAIR below, a giant quibble]; I liked Cosmos Jarvis as Wentworth [despite my friend’s “sappy” comment], though will say he didn’t seem distant or angry enough; Henry Golding gets high praise for his William Elliot, just not caddish enough in my book; the color-blind casting worked perfectly – thank goodness this is a barrier well-hurdled in many recent productions [Bridgerton for one; Mr. Malcolm’s List as another (not yet seen – I have read the book and hope to not be disappointed!)] – and high praise for Mrs. Russell and Louisa [absolutely lovely!]. Richard E. Grant was perfectly and vainly odious as Sir Walter – I wish he had had more screen time…
6. Some of the scenes:
– Wentworth taking the boys off Anne in the woods [in the parlor in the book, but I won’t quibble] – the point is Wentworth was around and saw Anne in distress and acted.
– the Crofts and their carriage: Wentworth asking for them to take up Anne – a lovely scene, again showing that he is paying attention to Anne – but he doesn’t HELP her into the carriage and he should have!
6. The Soundtrack: The final song by Birdy is terrific [though very popular culture like Johnny Flynn and his “Queen Bee” in the recent Emma] – conveys the story better than the whole movie really – and the rest by Stuart Earl is engaging enough – you can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BvDswoUAtk [I include the lyrics to the Birdy song below]
CONS: [hold on to your hats…]
1. The Language: ok, unless I missed something, this is a movie of the Jane Austen novel Persuasion. I think I counted no more than 10 direct lines from the novel, so much else made up that I thought we were watching some dime-store novel of historical fiction whose author didn’t do their homework and is stuck in 2022 after all – a few examples of many:
– the endless rating of both men and women on the 1-10 scale – really?? I thought that came into being with Dudley Moore’s “10” in 1979. Mrs. Clay, “a 5 in London, a 10 in Bath” [obviously William Elliot certainly thought so]
– Mary Musgrove, down and out with a “bug” deems herself an “empath” – good lord, what can be said, though I did laugh out loud…she was a great whiner, as she is on the page, but I just wanted to slap her…[well, I want to slap Mary in the book too…]
– Anne’s constant talking, to herself, to the wall, to her ever-present rabbit [a rabbit???], to the viewer: I realize the writers wanted to convey Anne’s inner thoughts, her sufferings, her regrets, to give us an Anne who tells it all, like she is in some endless therapy session that just lets her natter on and on – but where is the Anne on the page who suffers in silence, who gradually develops an inner strength and confidence that in the end enables her to speak out loud and clear in the only way she can, to an overhearing Capt. Wentworth… sometimes I just wanted her to shut up… [caveat: there were a few times that I thought the script did a fine job of conveying Anne’s inner life, “her quiet dignity” as she calls it, holding it together in her bathtub…]
– the use of clichés: “abandon all hope”; “hope springs eternal”… the list is endless; Mary as “shockingly self-aware” (says Anne)
– Wentworth telling Anne: “You’d make a great Admiral” – such a ridiculous comment, I have no comment…
– the whole “exes” and “friends” thing – way too modern chat
-Anne summing up William Elliot: 1. ‘He must have an angle” [when did that come into general use??]; 2. “He’s a 10” – a running gag that gets old…
2. The Conversations and Scenes: ok, here is where the movie lost me – there were far too many extreme divergences from the original text [I think it’s a book called Persuasion] – and I wonder who sits around at night and makes this stuff up:
– Anne blurting out at the dinner table that Charles wanted to marry her first… [now in the book, Wentworth learns this from Louisa with Anne overhearing – she is mortified that Wentworth would once again rail against her persuadability” – there is NO reason for Anne to share this with the dinner table – it was embarrassing for all [including the viewer]
– The octopus story: does this have a purpose?? “You’re beginning to grow on me”… I remain completely clueless.
– Louisa turning into a courtship instructor! – then snagging Wentworth for herself after a conversation with Anne – none of this is in the text, other than a subtle sense that Anne wants nothing to do with the captivating Captain…
– Anne and Wentworth meeting on the beach in Lyme for a conversation that is entirely made up – they stumble over words and end up becoming “friends,” both dissatisfied with being unable to express their true feelings – not only is it made up but it is much too early in the story to give this all away – and then Anne takes a dip in the sea, fully clothed no less, floating as she has done before in the bathtub – this is so un-19th-century!
– Mr. and Mrs. Croft are barely in the film – which is too bad, as their presence gives us much to understand about life in the Royal Navy AND what a good marriage looks like [not all that common in Austen!] – the conversation at the dinner table where Sophie tells of sailing with her husband and hating being left behind on land has been relegated to a quick conversation while walking – and too much is missed about the developing friendship between Anne and the Crofts.
3. The Characters; or how adding in some modern-day angst behaviors gives not-to-be-missed clues into each character [like the viewer cannot figure some of this out themselves?]:
– Lady Russell’s sexual adventures on the Continent?? How exciting for Lady R, but I doubt she would actually allude to this with Anne. And Lady R, who early on in the film says she was wrong to persuade Anne to give up the then Lieutenant Wentworth, never really sees that truth in the book – she continues to direct Anne to a better match.
– Anne peeing on a tree – certainly a nod to the Emma of 2020 warming her butt at the fire – but necessary??
– Anne in an almost constant state of intoxication, a wine-bottle always at hand; not to mention the bottle falling on her head – Anne-the-Klutz seems the order of the day: jam on her face just another example [though she is certainly more fun for those Musgrove boys than the sour Mary…]; slurping her drinks at the Dalrymple’s [and then that octopus story]…
– – Where oh where are the senior Musgroves?? I can barely recall their presence, they too important to the tale with their humor, over-the-top household…I miss them.
– In Lyme, the infamous fall – they used different steps than the “Granny” steps – was there a reason for this?? [though various illustrators have used the other steps as well] – I was pleased to see this kept in the film and it actually follows the book!
– Where oh where is Mrs. Smith?? A necessary part of the plot to understand the true colors of William Elliot – here we have him KISSING Mrs. Clay in Bath’s broad daylight, for all to see, and quite content in his film-ending marriage – someone really sat up late to come up with this one… a reformed cad – VERY un-Austen-like [none of her rogues are redeemed, as anyone who has read her novels knows.]
And then, The Letter – a quick conversation that Wentworth overhears, Anne having her last chance to tell him what she feels, and Wentworth leaving hastily written letter for Anne [or anyone else] to see – one is pleased to hear some of the letter verbatim [the best love letter in all of literature! – it deserves a reading!] – but then we have another Olympic Anne, running through the streets of Bath, frantically searching for her Captain – this a nod to the ridiculous Anne in the 2007 Persuasion, Sally Hawkins hysterical back-and-forth sprinting in search of her Captain – but I missed the quiet coming together of Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds in the crazed streets of Bath, their un-Austen-like Kiss rocking the Austen world as completely inappropriate, but delicious nonetheless…
So, final answer?
I think it all lies in Anne’s HAIR: did Ms. Johnson just flat-out refuse to be Regencified?? No way she would succumb to the tightly wound Curly-Cue Curls of Anya Taylor-Joy? Her straggly mess just another sign of her depressive state seemed out of place and time, contributing to the feeling that Anne was just observing the rest of her 19th-century world but not really a part of it at all – the point I guess from this film’s standpoint, giving us an Anne E perhaps, who hopefully will be understood and beloved by a new generation, but certainly not the Anne Elliot of the Persuasion I know and love.
[But I did like seeing Wentworth still in uniform and teaching Anne the intricacies of the sextant – a fine future for these two, eight years coming, and finally happily there…] – in the end, I am really just a sappy romantic and not a very good critic…
Your thoughts?? [I could have gone on and on but I’ve said enough – now your turn!]
The Lyrics to “Quietly Yours”
White sails and off shore lights
We were passing ships in the night
Now I’m tracing shadows on your back
Like I dreamt so many times
Oh for so long I’ve been waiting
For so long, for a love like this
And I was so sure baby
I’d lost you for a minute but
There’s the sweetest
Spring at my door
Can you feel it?
Just the same as before
Many years have gone by
But I knew you’d come
This hope in my heart
Prayed the night bring
Back what I lost
Many years have gone by
But I never forgot
I’ve always been yours
There was a time when I lеt you go
Allowed myself to be swayеd and pulled
But for all my days I make a vow
No words could ever shake me now
‘Cause for so long I’ve been waiting
So long, for a love like this
And I was so sure baby
I’d lost you for a minute but
There’s the sweetest
Spring at my door
Can you feel it?
Just the same as before
Many years have gone by
But I knew you’d come
This hope in my heart
Prayed the night bring
Back what I lost
Many years have gone by
But I never forgot
I’ve always been yours
I’ve always been yours
Only yours (Yeah)
Only yours (Yeah)
c2022 Jane Austen in Vermont
Gentle Readers: I welcome today, Hazel Mills, who has most generously written a post about one of Austen’s many illustrators, Philip Gough. I had written two posts on Gough [see below for links] but little was known about him personally. Hazel has done some extensive research into his life and works, and she shares this most interesting information with us here. Thank you Hazel!
Philip Henry Cecil Gough
by Hazel Mills
The artist, Philip Henry Cecil Gough, was born on the 11th June 1908 in Warrington, Lancashire, England, the eldest of four children. He was born to Cyril Philip Gough and Winifred Mary Hutchings.
Philip was from a long line of leather tanners, curriers and bark factors, the latter using bark to soften leather. His family were wealthy owners of tanneries with evidence of his father travelling abroad to the USA in 1925 on business.
Philip’s paternal grandfather, also a Philip, had carried on the family business in Wem, Cheshire with two of his three brothers. It obviously provided a good income as all four brothers had been to private boarding schools. In 1880, the tannery company of grandfather, Philip, and his brother was dissolved and Philip continued alone.
It is Philip’s maternal side that gives us the clue to his artistic side. His mother Winifred, also born into a family of tanners, travelled to Brussels to study Art and Music before her marriage. She also played the viola in various orchestras. 
Before 1914 the Gough family moved to Moore, near Runcorn in Cheshire  and then in 1921, at the age of 12, Philip was sent to Loretto School, just outside Edinburgh, Scotland, as a boarder. On the 4th and 5th April of that year Philip assisted in the painting of the scenery in the staging of “Much Ado About Nothing”  in the gymnasium of the school. The art master he assisted was Colonel Buchanan-Dunlop, who, during the famous ceasefire at Christmas 1914, led the singing of the carols from a sheet sent to him from Loretto School. 
Again in 1924, Philip painted scenery for the school production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, which was performed in aid of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, again assisting Col. Buchanan-Dunlop. 
Philip left school in 1925.  It is known that he attended art school in Cornwall and Liverpool. He entered Liverpool College of Art in February 1926 and a year later, while still at the college, designed the scenery for the pantomime, “Robinson Crusoe”, at the Garrick Theatre in London. In 1928, after leaving the Liverpool College of Art, he designed about 60 costumes for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for the Liverpool Playhouse with a photo being published in the “Graphic newspaper” on 19th January 1929  It is also thought that he designed shop windows around this time.
1929 saw Philip working on a prestigious new project. He was responsible for all the scenery and costumes for A.A. Milne’s new play, “Toad of Toad Hall” at the Liverpool Playhouse, based on Kenneth Grahame’s book, “Wind in the Willows”. “The Stage” described Philip’s work as “both novel and extremely beautiful”.  At this time, Philip was still only twenty one years old. A.A. Milne also wrote a play of “Pride and Prejudice” called “Miss Elizabeth Bennet”. This was also produced at the Liverpool Playhouse. But sadly it was not Philip that did the scenery for this one, but a Charles Thomas. 
In September of the following year, Philip designed scenery and costumes for “Charlots’s Masquerade”, a variety show at the Cambridge Theatre in London. There is even some Pathé News footage of this in existence. [you can view it here:
It must be around this time that Philip meets his first wife, Mary O’Gorman, as the London Electoral register of 1930 shows him living in what appears to be a lodging house at the same address as her. It’s not know if they were actually living together as the listing is just alphabetical. Over the next eight years Gough is involved in costume and set design for at least seven productions, the first two at the Liverpool Playhouse but the following ones were all in various locations in London.
Towards the end of this time the first book illustrated by Gough that I could find was the wonderfully named*, For Your Convenience: a learned dialogue instructive to all Londoners & London visitors, overheard in the Thélème Club and taken down verbatim by Paul Fry, [pseudonym for Thomas Burke] and published by Routledge in 1937.
[* this book is republished today as For Your Convenience: A Classic 1930’s Guide to London Loos – in 1937 it was a heavily disguised guide to London toilets for homosexual encounters.]
In 1939 Philip married Mary Catherine O’Gorman in Chelsea. The 1939 England and Wales register shows the married couple living in elegant Walpole Street, Chelsea. The house is again the home of what appears to be boarders. Philip is described as working as an artist and designer of theatrical scenery, Mary is a secondary school teacher.
The following year Philip worked on “The Country Wife” at the Little Theatre, Haymarket, London and The Illustrated London News reported that the “décor by Mr. Philip Gough is the chief charm of this production.” 
The next few years, over the time of the Second World War, seem to be a very quiet time for Philip. I can only find his illustration of a book by Eleanor Farjeon called The New Book of Days, an anthology of rhymes, proverbial tales, traditions, short essays, biographical sketches and miscellaneous information, one piece for each day of the year. In 1936, Philip had also designed the sets and costumes for a play by Eleanor and Hubert Farjeon, called “The Two Bouquets”.
Philip’s father died in 1946 when Philip was still living in Chelsea. In 1948 he appears to have left his wife and is now living at another address in Chelsea with a Joan Sinclair.
1947 was a prolific year as a book illustrator, with four books for Peter Lunn publishers including “Fairy Tales” by Hans Christian Andersen. The following year would be his foray into Jane Austen Novels with the 1948 publication of Emma, published by MacDonald for their Illustrated Classics series.
I have tracked down forty-two books between 1937 and 1973 where he drew illustrations throughout, but in addition Philip designed many, many more dust jackets for novels such as those of Georgette Heyer:
and non fiction tiles such as 1960s reprints of the four volume “A History of Everyday Things in England” that first appeared in 1918:
Philip also did a few more set designs in the 1950s but more of his time was spent illustrating books including Pride and Prejudice (1951), Mansfield Park (1957) and Sense and Sensibility (1958) for Macdonald. You can see many of the illustrations here:
In Philip’s personal life, tragedy hit when his mother was killed in an accident when she was hit by an army truck in 1952. Philip married Joan in 1953 which is the last year in which I can find any more set and costume designing.
1961 saw the Macdonald publication of both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion with his illustrations and he continued to illustrate books until at least 1973.
Philip Gough died in London on 24th February 1986, leaving a fortune of £42,661.
Philip’s sisters also deserve a mention. Sheila May Gough was qualified as a nurse and during WWII joined the ‘Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service’. She served in Europe before being posted to Malta. In 1943 Malta became the base for the invasion of Sicily. It was codenamed ‘Operation Husky’ and began on the night of 9 July and lasted for six weeks. Sheila was awarded the ‘Associate of the Royal Red Cross’ for “special devotion to duty…and complete disregard for her own safety”.  Sheila remained unmarried until the age of 58, in 1975, when she married Donald Verner Taylor C.B.E. who had been in the Army Dental Corps in Malta at the same time as her.
Less is known of his sister Gwendoline Winifred other than she was a school teacher at a boarding school in Nottingham in 1939  but in 1941 sailed to South Africa where she stayed until 1946.  More is known of Brenda Irene, or rather Flight Officer Brenda Irene Gough. The 1939 register records that Brenda was working as a secretary for the Civil Nursing Reserve and living in Wimbledon. She joined the WAAF (The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) after May 1941 . In 1943, Brenda was promoted to Section Officer in the Administrative and Special Services Branch and later promoted to Flying Officer. During the war women were paid two thirds of the salary of their male counterparts.
Philip Gough has left an enormous body of work and original works of his illustrations can achieve high prices today, for example, a signed original gouache artwork for the dust wrapper to Georgette Heyer’s The Foundling currently commands a price of around $2,500.
- The London gazette May 27 1881
- Obituary Cheshire Observer Dec 01 1951
- Kelly’s Directory 1914
- The Graphic – Saturday 19 January 1929
- The Stage – Thursday 26 December 1929
- The Era – Wednesday 9 September 1936
- Illustrated London News – Saturday 20 April 1940
- National Archives
- 1939 England and Wales Register
- UK incoming and Outgoing passenger lists
- Liverpool College of Art Record -Liverpool College of Art Archives
- Mid summer Night’s Dream Image courtesy of Mary Evans Picture Library (c) Illustrated London News/Mary Evans Picture Library.
- For Your Convenience images – Care of Daniel Crouch Rare Books – crouchrarebooks.com
Hazel Mills is a retired science teacher and a founder member and Chair of the Cambridge Group of the UK Jane Austen Society. Until her move to Denmark, she was a Regional Speaker for the Society. Hazel discovered Austen as a thirteen year old Dorset schoolgirl when reading Pride and Prejudice and fell in love for the first time with Mr Darcy. She has researched the history of Jane Austen’s time, presenting illustrated talks, around England and Scotland, on diverse subjects including: Travel and Carriages in Jane Austen’s time; the Life of John Rawstorn Papillon, Rector of Chawton; Food production and Dining; Amateur Theatricals at Steventon, and the Illustrators of Austen’s novels. She lives in a lovely house overlooking the sea with her husband who built her a library to house her extensive Austen collection, which includes over 230 different copies of Pride and Prejudice.
Do you have a favorite Philip Gough illustration?? Please leave a comment below.
©2022, Jane Austen in Vermont and Hazel Mills
Can there possibly be any signs of Spring with current temperatures what they are?! Even here today in South Carolina we are at 28 degrees [warming up to maybe 53…I live in Hope]! So I happily welcome Pam Braak, NAFCH Treasurer and Tarrant County (TX) Master Gardener, with her thoughts on Chawton House and the Snowdrop:
The Snowdrop ~ Harbinger of Spring
I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun
And crocus fires are kindling one by one:
Sing, robin, sing:
I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring.
–Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), from “The First Spring Day”
Chawton House recently announced their participation in the National Garden Scheme’s Snowdrop Sunday, with an event on February 6. The National Garden Scheme in the UK brings joy to this Texas gardener — and envy that I cannot participate without a transatlantic flight. I wondered about the snowdrop mania in the UK and if there exists an analogous passion for them in the U.S.
We have Garden Conservancy Open Days in the U.S. but that cannot compare to the immense number of gardens that the NGS organizes each year. Privately owned gardens open each year to visitors, with admission fees donated to health-related charities. In 2020 there were over 3,700 gardens due to open. Imagine the choices! For the Snowdrop Festival in February, 100 gardens are participating, including Chawton House.
George Plumptre, Chief Executive of the National Garden Scheme, says: “Following the restrictions of 2020 and 2021 there has never been a greater need to start the new year with the beautiful freshness of the first blooms of spring. But garden visiting at this time of year is not just for galanthophiles who are looking to discover a rare variety of snowdrop in gardens they may never otherwise find. Snowdrops are the perfect antidote to the winter blues and spending the afternoon at one of our 100 Snowdrop Festival gardens is the ideal opportunity to get outside and enjoy some spectacular scenes at an otherwise gloomy time of year.”
Common Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis
“Snowdrops: theirs is a fragile but hardy celebration
– in the very teeth of winter”
Louise Beebe Wilde (1878-1938), American gardening writer
Snowdrops enjoy a cult following in the UK where aficionados are known as galanthophiles. No doubt these enthusiasts will be spotted around the Chawton House gardens getting down on their knees and even lying on their bellies to enjoy and photograph these late-winter wonders. Galanthophiles are collectors of much more than common snowdrops. The lure of collecting the 2,500 plus varieties is quite a draw. Galanthophiles look for snowdrops in old gardens, but there are plenty for sale, some at phenomenal prices. Per “Fun facts about Snowdrops – National Garden Scheme” , a single Galanthus plicatus “Golden Fleece” sold for £1,390 on eBay in 2015! Akin to the tulip craze in seventeenth-century Holland.
There are a plethora of festivals and tours in the UK celebrating the snowdrop. For instance, in Dorset the citizens of Shaftesbury have planted more than 200,000 snowdrop bulbs since 2017 and have an annual festival. Stateside, I did find the Galanthus Gala in Downingtown, PA but I do not think our fondness approaches UK levels. [Here is their facebook page with a virtual event in 2021, nothing yet for 2022 on there.]
Snowdrops are easy to grow, tough, and often push through the snow to bloom. You can find several varieties for sale online in the U.S., but I doubt you’ll locate 2,500 varieties. They are recommended in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 7, growing best in partial sun and partial shade. In the southern zone where I live, the bulbs may decline over time; this is a plant that is most likely best suited to cooler climates. In the meantime, I content myself with growing a relative, summer snowflakes Leucojum aestivum, which bloom in February, contrary to their name. In my garden, I must be content to just dream of swaths of snowdrops.
Various varieties of Galanthus
Thank you Pam for bringing us a little joy into our climate-stressed, virus-ridden world – I think even Jane Austen would be smiling! [Does she mention snowdrops anywhere??]
For more information on Chawton House, their current exhibition on Botanical Women, and their other interesting goings-on, please visit ChawtonHouse.org. You can also help with their ongoing efforts for their Library and estate by becoming a Friend – donate whatever you can on the North American Friends of Chawton House donation page – we appreciate your support!
Jane Austen on 7 March 7 1814, from London to Cassandra in Chawton:
Monday. Here’s a day! – The Ground covered with snow! What is to become of us? – We were to have walked out early to near Shops, & had the Carriage for the more distant. – Mr. Richard Snow* is dreadfuly fond of us. I dare say he has stretched himself out at Chawton too.
Ltr. 98, 5-8 March 1814, p. 270 [Le Faye, 4th ed.]
©2022, Jane Austen in Vermont
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Festive Holidays!!
It is a rare date that Austen mentions in her works, but one of them is today, December 24: Christmas Eve, “(for it was a very great event that Mr. Woodhouse should dine out, on the 24th of December)” [Emma Vol. I, Ch. xiii]
While we usually associate Mr. Woodhouse with often curmudgeonly weather-obsessed behavior, here he is most eager to get all wrapped up and head over to Randalls:
Mr. Woodhouse had so completely made up his mind to the visit, that in spite of the increasing coldness, he seemed to have no idea of shrinking from it, and set forward at last most punctually with his eldest daughter in his own carriage, with less apparent consciousness of the weather than either of the others; too full of the wonder of his own going, and the pleasure it was to afford at Randalls to see that it was cold, and too well wrapt up to feel it. [E, Vol. I, Ch. xiii]
So it is not dear fussy Mr. Woodhouse who is Scrooge this Christmas Eve, but Austen is adept at creating one, and long before Dickens ever did:
‘A man,” said he, ‘must have a very good opinion of himself when he asks people to leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as this, for the sake of coming to see him. He must think himself a most agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing. It is the greatest absurdity — Actually snowing at this moment! The folly of not allowing people to be comfortable at home, and the folly of people’s not staying comfortably at home when they can! If we were obliged to go out such an evening as this, by any call of duty or business, what a hardship we should deem it; — and here are we, probably with rather thinner clothing than usual, setting forward voluntarily, without excuse, in defiance of the voice of nature, which tells man, in every thing given to his view or his feelings, to stay at home himself, and keep all under shelter that he can; — here are we setting forward to spend five dull hours in another man’s house, with nothing to say or to hear that was not said and heard yesterday, and may not be said and heard again to-morrow. Going in dismal weather, to return probably in worse; — four horses and four servants taken out for nothing but to convey five idle, shivering creatures into colder rooms and worse company than they might have had at home.” [E, Vol. I, Ch. xiii]
Well, “Bah! Humbug!” to you too, John Knightley! – he is our Scrooge this Christmas Eve [indeed, I believe that Isabella has married her father!] and his ill humor continues throughout the evening – ending of course with his gloomy and overblown report of the worsening weather that sets off three full pages of discussion on the risks of setting out, on the possibility of being snowed-in, on the cold, on the danger to the horses and the servants – “‘What is to be done, my dear Emma? – what is to be done?’ was Mr. Woodhouse’s first exclamation…” and it all is finally “settled in a few brief sentences” by Mr. Knightley and Emma, certainly foreshadowing their success as a companionable couple.
And this leads to one of Austen’s most comic scenes – the proposal of Mr. Elton, Emma trapped in the carriage alone with him believing that “he had been drinking too much of Mr. Weston’s good wine, and felt sure that he would want to be talking nonsense…” – which of course he does…
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, with much snow on the ground (but not enough to trouble your carriage), some song and wine (but not enough to induce unwanted and overbearing offers of love and marriage), and the pleasure of good company (with hopefully no Scrooge-like visitors to whom you must either “comply” or be “quarrelsome” or like Emma, have your “heroism reach only to silence.” )
P.S. – And tonight pull your Emma off the shelf and read through these chapters in volume I [ch, 13-15] for a good chuckle! – this of course before your annual reading of A Christmas Carol.
1. Emma’s Christmas Day Paper Doll at Fancy Ephemera.com
2. Dinner at Randalls at Chrismologist.blogspot.com
3. ‘Christmas Weather’ at Harlequin Historical Authors
4. Vintage postcard in my collection