The Pemberley Post, No. 1 (Jan 7, 2019) ~ Jane Austen and More

When I first started this blog on March 31, 2008, I would post a weekly round-up of Jane Austen findings on the web. After a few years, Life got in the way of working on that weekly list, though I have continued to find things every day that I sometimes post on facebook or twitter, but now rarely even do that – there’s just SO MUCH information out there, and you all likely see and know more than I do on any given day. But I’ve decided to try my hand at sharing some weekly links – some about Jane Austen, others about books and reading, and a little bit of history thrown in – a mishmash really of things that interest me – and in hopes they interest you too. I am calling this round-up “The Pemberley Post,” the name of our no-longer-published JASNA-Vermont newsletter – just because I like the name (and “Highbury Gossips,” the best possible name ever is the title of JASNA-Montreal’s newsletter…)

I cannot promise I’ll do this every week, but shall make an effort, though some might be very short! – here is the first, for the week of January 1-7, 2019 – and as you can see, I am all over the map with information!

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The Broadview Press in December 2018 released their online “Jane Austen in Context.” For $9.95 you can access this research tool for its critical articles, visual materials, and interactive timelines and maps – and more is being added each week. Click here for more info: https://broadviewpress.com/product/broadview-online-jane-austen-in-context/?ph=36eb83021c2f2f534593bea0#tab-description

Laurel Ann at Austenprose – her favorite books from 2018: https://austenprose.com/2019/01/01/my-favorite-books-of-2018-by-a-partial-prejudiced-and-ignorant-jane-austen-fan/

What P&P teaches readers: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/12/what-jane-austens-pride-prejudice-teaches-readers/578872/

Classics now out of copyrighthttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/29/books/copyright-extension-literature-public-domain.html

And also this: https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/public-domain-day-2019-what-books-can-you-now-read-for-free.html/

10 novels to beat the January blues (Mansfield Park? – who knew??): https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/best-books-to-read-new-year-novels-fiction-jane-austen-pg-wodehouse-literature-a8709196.html

5 best novels starring Jane Austen: https://www.vulture.com/article/five-essential-novels-with-jane-austen-as-a-premise.html

Favorite Romance novels of 2018 by Cailey Hall at LARB (many are YA novels, very often the best reads): http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/reviews/favorite-romance-novels-2018/

A Jane Austen Literary tour of England this summer 2019 (space is limited): https://betweennapsontheporch.net/jane-austen-fans-would-you-enjoy-a-literary-tour-of-southern-england/

Reviewing “Clueless, The Musical”https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/11/theater/clueless-the-musical-review.html

Maria Sibylla Merian -JSTOR

The 17th-Century should-not-be-forgotten insect artist and early feminist, Maria Sibylla Merian: https://daily.jstor.org/the-metamorphosis-of-a-17th-century-insect-artist/

The ‘Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’ – free podcasts each week: https://soundcloud.com/odnb – listen to this 15 minute piece on Jane Seymour (Henry VIII wife #3 – she at least didn’t lose her head…) – or this one on Elizabeth Parsons, the Cock Lane Ghost: https://soundcloud.com/odnb/elizabeth-parsons-the-cock-lane-ghost-17491807-imposter

Or this one at nearly 2 hours (and from 4 years ago), Jane Austen vs. Emily Bronte (with John Mullan and Kate Mosse): https://soundcloud.com/intelligence2/jane-austen-vs-emily-bronte

The literary photographs of Lotte Jacobi exhibit at the University of New Hampshire to open this January – think J. D. Salinger: https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/issue/1701/lotte-jacobi-1.phtml

Check your bookshelves for any old Mary Poppins: https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/fine_books_blog/2018/12/the-return-of-mary-poppins.phtml

Susannah Fullerton’s (president of JASA) list of favorites read in 2018: https://susannahfullerton.com.au/my-2018-favourites/

Ellen Moody an Jane Austen’s friendship with Anne Sharpe (where she fleshes out and corrects the chapter on Austen and Sharp(e) in The Secret Sisterhood): https://reveriesunderthesignofausten.wordpress.com/2019/01/06/jane-austen-anne-sharp-she-is-an-excellent-kind-friend/

 

Gainsborough – NPG

Your last chance to see the “Gainsborough Family Album” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery (London) which closes February 3, 2019 (or buy the catalogue for £29.95): https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/gainsborough/exhibition/

A calligraphy exhibit at the Getty (through April 7, 2019) http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/artful_words/

How the Georgians stored their ice (no mention of martinis): https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/london-archaeologists-unearth-subterranean-georgian-ice-store-180971146/

Set up your 2019 reading list with the help of the Modern Mrs. Darcy: https://modernmrsdarcy.com/reading-challenge-2019/

London’s Feminist Library has been saved from closing: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jan/03/feminist-library-saved-from-closure-as-supporters-raise-35000

Read:

– everything you ever wanted to know about Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding gown in The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson: http://www.jennifer-robson.com/writing/the-gown/

Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote, by Kirsten Gillibrand, illustrated by Maira Kalman: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-women-who-won-the-right-to-vote

Julie Klassen has a new book out in her Ivy Hill series, The Bride of Ivy Green: https://bakerbookhouse.com/products/the-bride-of-ivy-green-9780764218170

Publishers Weekly’s list of the favorite 2018 reads of booksellers…: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/78903-booksellers-favorite-titles-of-2018.html

Lots of reading lists – what’s on your TBR pile?

c2019, Jane Austen in Vermont

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear JASNA Member,

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas to you all,
Susannah Fullerton
President of JASA

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

 
Works:

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

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Sign up today – you will be most pleased!

c2018, Jane Austen in Vermont

From the Archives ~ Jane Austen’s Very Own Scrooge

Emma - Christmas day paper doll3I pull this Christmas Eve post from the archives,
first posted on Dec 24, 2010

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas
from Everyone in JASNA-Vermont!

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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]

Fig. 2

So it is not dear 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.

Fig. 3 ‘Christmas Weather’

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.

___________________
Illustrations:

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

Charlotte Bronte ~ April 21, 1816

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[I first posted this in 2009 – here it is again, in celebration of Bronte’s birthday!]

Happy Birthday to Charlotte Bronte, born April 21, 1816 in Thornton, Yorkshire.

I just had the good fortune to finally visit Haworth and tour the Bronte Parsonage.  One of the special extras was the display of the various costumes worn in the latest BBC production of Wuthering Heights [but alas! no pictures allowed!]

I append here a few of my photographs of the Parsonage as well as several links for further reading…

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Main Street, Haworth

Main Street, Haworth

Further Reading:

Wishing Jane Austen a Very Happy Birthday!

austen-silhouetteThe first order of business today, on this 241st birthday of Jane Austen, is the annual publication of JASNA’s Persuasions On-Line Vol. 37, No. 1 (Winter 2016). Click here for the Table of Contents to yet another inspiring collection of essays, some from the 2016 AGM in Washington DC on EMMA AT 200, “NO ONE BUT HERSELF” and other “Miscellany” – all about Jane Austen…and perfect winter reading material…

Here is the link: http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol37no1/toc.html

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Here are the essays: (you might especially notice Gillian Dow’s essay on the Emma exhibition at Chawton House Library this year (website under redevelopment til Christmas) – for those of you who could not attend, this is the next best thing to being there!)

“The Encouragement I Received”: Emma and the Language of Sexual Assault
Celia Easton

“Could He Even Have Seen into Her Heart”: Mr. Knightley’s Development of Sympathy
Michele Larrow

Emma’s “Serious Spirit”: How Miss Woodhouse Faces the Issues Raised in Mansfield Park and Becomes Jane Austen’s Most Complex Heroine
Anna Morton

“Small, Trifling Presents”: Giving and Receiving in Emma
Linda Zionkowski

Oysters and Alderneys: Emma and the Animal Economy
Susan Jones

Epistolary Culture in Emma: Secrets and Social Transgressions
L. Bao Bui

Divas in the Drawing Room, or Italian Opera Comes to Highbury
Jeffrey Nigro and Andrea Cawelti

Mrs. Elton’s Pearls: Simulating Superiority in Jane Austen’s Emma
Carrie Wright

Multimedia Emma: Three Adaptations
Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield

Jane Austen’s Emma at 200: From English Village to Global Appeal
Gillian Dow

MISCELLANY

Discerning Voice through Austen Said: Free Indirect Discourse, Coding, and Interpretive (Un)Certainty
Laura Moneyham White and Carmen Smith

“The Bells Rang and Every Body Smiled”: Jane Austen’s “Courtship Novels”
Gillian Dooley

Courtship and Financial Interest in Northanger Abbey
Kelly Coyne

Curious Distinctions in Sense and Sensibility
Ethan Smilie

“If Art Could Tell”: A Miltonic Reading of Pride and Prejudice
James M. Scott

Looking for Mr. Darcy: The Role of the Viewer in Creating a Cultural Icon
Henriette-Juliane Seeliger

Replacing Jane: Fandom and Fidelity in Dan Zeff’s Lost in Austen (2008)
Paige Pinto

Fanny Price Goes to the Opera: Jonathan Dove’s and Alasdair Middleton’s Mansfield Park
Douglas Murray

Austen at the Ends of the Earth: The Near and the Far in Persuasion
Katherine Voyles

Jane Austen Bibliography, 2015
Deborah Barnum

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Let’s look at what Austen’s father wrote about her arrival on December 16, 1775:

You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassy certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago:  however last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over.  We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion.  She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy.  Your sister thank God is pure well after it, and send her love to you and my brother, not forgetting James and Philly…

[Letter from Mr. Austen to his sister Philadelphia Walter, December 17, 1775, as quoted from Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen, A Family Record, Cambridge, 2004, p.27.]

Happy Birthday Miss Austen! – you continue to inspire, intrigue, and offer insights like no other!

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

JASNA~Vermont Meeting ~ September 18, 2016 ~ Jane Austen & Mary Wollstonecraft

Photos can be viewed on the event facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2094244057466958/permalink/2116252491932781/

Thank you Nancy for a delightful talk!

~
You are Cordially Invited to JASNA-Vermont’s September Meeting
at the Burlington Book Festival 

“Planting the Seeds for the Austen Oeuvre:
Mary Wollstonecraft and the Rights of Woman.”
with
Nancy Means Wright*

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In an illustrated talk, Wright will describe 18th-century writer Mary Wollstonecraft’s traumatic and unconventional life in an era when women were victims of primogeniture and considered incapable of reason. She will discuss Mary’s groundbreaking Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and her Unitarian publisher’s circle of Dissidents; her years in revolutionary Paris when she lost her head to a feckless American captain – and her voyage to Scandinavia as a lone woman in search of a missing “silver ship.” She will also consider the ongoing question: Was Jane Austen influenced by Mary Wollstonecraft?

Sunday, September 18, 2016 2 – 4 pm
Morgan Room, Aiken Hall**
83 Summit Street
Champlain College
Burlington VT

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Sponsored by JASNA-Vermont and Bygone Books

~ Free & open to the public ~
~ Light refreshments served
 ~ 

For more information:   JASNAVTregion [at] gmail.com 
Please visit our blog at: http://JaneAustenInVermont.wordpress.com
Burlington Book Festival website: http://burlingtonbookfestival.com/ 

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*Vermont author Nancy Means Wright has published fiction with St Martin’s Press, Dutton, Perseverance Press, and elsewhere, including a trilogy of historical mysteries featuring 18th-century Mary Wollstonecraft. Her most recent works are Queens Never Make Bargains, a novel, and The Shady Sisters, a collection of poems. Short stories and poems appear in American Literary Review, Green Mountains Review, Carolina Quarterly, and others. Her children’s books have received an Agatha Award and a grant from the Society of Children’s Book Writers. A former teacher and Bread Loaf Scholar, Nancy lives in Middlebury, Vermont, with her spouse and two Maine Coon cats. Her books will be available for purchase and signing.

**Aiken Hall is located at 83 Summit St – #36 on the map here: https://www.champlain.edu/Documents/Admissions/Undergraduate%20Admissions/Campus-Map.pdf  Parking is on the street or in any College designated parking during the event.
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[Britannica.com]

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Hope you can join us!

c2016, Jane Austen in Vermont

“Will & Jane” Exhibit at the Folger ~ Interview with Co-Curator Janine Barchas ~ Brochure Giveaway!

UPDATE #2: watch “Will & Jane: The Movie” – 6 minutes on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pevAsxvhts

UPDATE #1: new images from the exhibition have been added!

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Folger Exhibit Brochure

The Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library is garnering a good deal of press (as it should!). Apparently there are record crowds wanting to get a glimpse of their two favorite Literary Heroes and how they have shown up in popular culture for the past 200 years – and “The Shirt” is no small part of this (a.k.a. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy) – no, no, don’t get your hopes up, Mr. Firth is not part of the Exhibit (though he would be most welcome…), but rather the shirt worn for the endlessly-youtubed scene of Darcy emerging from a pool of standing water at Pemberley is on display in a locked glass case where it can be on view but protected from the expected mass hysteria of, well, the masses… Kissing a glass case is not quite the same as stroking a cotton shirt, albeit hanging rather listlessly from a plastic form… but it is still a must see if you can get there! Grown women have been known to faint away, despite the message from a young Jane to “run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint…” I do hope the Folger is up to the task of a gallery full of shirt-mad persons… (and dare I add that though I am NOT one of the shirt-hysteric Janeites who think this scene is the best in all of the nearly 6 hour film, I do confess a strong interest in getting a glimpse of the actual shirt worn by Colin Firth…)

If you are able to attend the JASNA AGM this year, to be held in Washington DC, October 21-23  (but do allow extra days for all there is to see and do) – you will get a chance to go to the Folger and see what all the fuss is about – the two curators (Janine Barchas of the University of Texas at Austin, and Kristina Straub of Carnegie Mellon University) will be on hand to tell us all about it. If you are not at the AGM, the exhibit runs from August 6 – November 6, 2016 and admission is free. In the sad event you shall miss it entirely, there are also various articles to read – see the links below.

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18th-century Staffordshire porcelain of William Shakespeare (Folger) /
and 20th-century figurine of Jane Austen (Joan Doyle)

Today however, I welcome Janine Barchas, who most graciously answered a few of my questions about how the idea of this Will & Jane grouping came about… if you have any questions, please comment below and she will get back to you. As an incentive, and especially for those of you unable to make it to the Folger, Janine has provided us a copy of the 18-page exhibit brochure – another piece of Jane Austen celebrity “stuff” we all like to collect! (see below for details)

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Will and Jane at Chawton Cottage

JAIV: Tell us how this exhibit came about?

JB: This was a case of classic academic one-upmanship. In 2012, Michael Witmore, the Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, came to the University of Texas at Austin for a conference about the fate of books in a digital world.  Over a meal, I joked that Jane Austen was “giving Shakespeare a run for his money” and asked what he was planning to do about it.  As Mike and I continued to spar about the differences and similarities between the fan cultures around these two famous authors, an idea was born: “Will & Jane.”

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Busts of William Shakespeare (Folger) and Jane Austen (Joan Doyle)

JAIV: How did you and Kristina Straub come to work on this exhibit together?

JB: Our partnership was the result of solid academic matchmaking! Mike Witmore was her former colleague at Carnegie Mellon University, so Kristina’s name came up right away in the context of her deep knowledge of Shakespeare’s reception in the 18th century.  She and I had never met before our work on “Will & Jane” even though we are both 18th-century scholars and know many of the same people in what is a smallish field.  This exhibition has been a full three years in the making, during which time we have grown very close.  I look at our publications and label text and cannot tell you what sentence began as mine and which was first drafted by Kristina.  Given that academics are known for their social awkwardnesses and a tendency to work best when alone, our partnership on “Will & Jane” has been an extraordinary intellectual experience – even outside of the unique content of the show.

Shakespeare bellows - Folger

Shakespeare bellows – Folger

JAIV: You mostly talk and write about Jane Austen, but also the book itself as part of the material culture of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. What was the biggest challenge in taking on this exhibit that largely deals with the artifacts of celebrity created and collected over the past 200 years?

will-jane-porcelain-figures-jb[2]Royal Worcester porcelain figurine of “Emma Woodhouse” (1998) from the collection of Joan Doyle / and a colored pottery tableau entitled “Othello Relates his Story (ca. 1880) from the collections of the Folger

JB: The dominance of non-book artifacts in this exhibition (ceramics, paintings, odd assortments of relics, tchotchkes, and souvenirs) may seem at odds with a serious library of rare books such as the Folger. However, although both Shakespeare and Austen are fundamentally admired for their great literary works, the history of their afterlives and the nature of their modern celebrity is not just about steady streams of new editions but about the material objects that ordinary fans crave and collect.  This exhibition took us out of the usual library stacks of books and into art vaults and collections of so-called “realia.”  Part of the challenge, then, of putting this exhibition together was for two academics who were used to talking about the language of plays and novels to learn how to think and talk about non-book and JABandages-Amazonwordless objects and the stories they can tell. Mixing high and low culture in this exhibition (books with bobble-heads, so to speak) has been both a joy and a challenge.  In practical terms, today’s objects that celebrate Jane Austen at her 200-year mark lack the historical patina of those Shakespeare “relics” and souvenirs that have been carefully preserved for two centuries.  And yet we wanted these authors to stand together as potential equals.  This meant that every juxtaposition of old and new objects, every comparison between the afterlives of Will and Jane, had to show similar impulses across centuries of fandom – in spite of any obvious differences between current market values of the materials shown.

JAIV: What most surprised you in your findings?

JB: We initially thought that in order to fill 20 large display cases, we might have to stretch the comparison a bit here and there. But we were amazed by the tight parallels between, for example, the public spectacles that celebrated Shakespeare around his 200 mark (e.g. a museum dedicated to the Bard and a Jubilee) and today’s BBC bonnet dramas that, in essence, do some of that same work to promote Jane Austen.  Also, we were genuinely surprised by the manner in which Henry and Emily Folger resembled, in their dedication to all things Shakespeare, the collecting impulses of Alberta and Henry Burke, the couple who amassed the world’s most significant Jane Austen collection (now split between the Morgan Library and Goucher College).  One thread across the exhibition is how these two American couples, collecting decades apart and focused on two very different writers, pursued their purchases in the same way.

JAIV: What do you hope visitors will take away from this exhibit?

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Will and Jane at the Folger

JB: A sense of fun. We hope the combination of whimsy and scholarship is infectious and will help folks to see that even pop culture benefits from a larger historical framework.

JAIV: What has been the response so far?

A chalice made from the mulberry tree Shakespeare planted (Folger) /
a lock of Jane Austen’s hair (Jane Austen’s House Museum)

JB: A lively and lavishly illustrated review across two pages of the NYT weekend section on opening day surely helped to boost visitor numbers as well as raise our curatorial spirits.  The public seems genuinely curious about a show that pairs these equally famous but very different authors.  So far, we’ve had some record numbers in terms of daily visitors and received enthusiastic feedback from Folger docents.  The docents are the well-informed volunteers who lead daily group tours and have their finger on the pulse of true public reaction.  When they remain enthusiastic, you know a show is doing well.

JAIV: Who besides Shakespeare and Jane Austen has had such an impact on our celebrity-obsessed culture?

JB: Modern movie stars (and before them the starry thespians of the 18th-century stage) have glammed up both Will and Jane.  Our exhibition features a number of film actors who have their feet in both Shakespeare and Austen camps and whose own celebrity is in a symbiotic relationship with these authors.  From Laurence Olivier (photo stills and movie clips) to Emma Thompson (she loaned us the original typescript of her Sense and Sensibility screenplay), objects about and from movie stars adds a bit of Hollywood sparkle throughout the exhibition.

DarcyShirt-BBC

The Shirt – Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (BBC)

JAIV: What is your next project???

JB: Hopefully another project with Kristina. It will indeed also be very hard to go back to a steady diet of “just books” after this.   I suspect that odd bits of material culture will cling to all my research from now on.  I see both Will and Jane differently now.  They are each bigger than their written works alone.

Will-Jane-album-JB

This collector’s album for cigarette cards (London: Carreras Limited, ca. 1935) is one of many items in the exhibition showing Will and Jane being used to advertise non-book products

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Thank you Janine! – very much looking forward to seeing you and Kristina at the Folger in October!

If you would like to comment or ask Janine a question, please do so in the reply box below. Deadline will be Wednesday August 31, 2016 at 11:59pm – winner will be announced on Thursday Sept 1, 2016. Domestic only, sorry to say (our postal rates have soared).

barchas-janineJanine Barchas is Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is the author of  Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2012).  Her  first book, Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge UP, 2003), won the SHARP book prize for best work in the field of book history.  You can visit (and spend hours browsing!) her online digital project What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org) which includes the gallery of the British Institution that Jane Austen visited on May 24, 1813 and the “Shakespeare Gallery of 1796.” Barchas, along with colleague Kristina Straub, is currently curating an exhibition at the Folger on Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity.

Further reading:

“Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity” runs August 6 through Nov. 6, 2016 at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street S.E., Washington; 202-544-7077.

DarcyShirt-Folger

“The Shirt” at the Folger

c2016, Jane Austen in Vermont