Looking for Jane Austen’s Pemberley ~ Guest Post by Chris Sandrawich

Dear Readers: I welcome today my good friend Chris Sandrawich, who has posted here before on all things Jane Austen and the Regency world. This post on “Looking for Pemberley” was originally published in the JAS Midlands annual publications Transactions (No. 24, 2013), so I am honored to include it here on the blog where it might get a well-deserved wider readership. Chris’s usual insights and wit would, I believe, even delight our not-for-dull-elves Jane. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have – please comment below with any thoughts or questions you might have for Chris. [Please note that I have maintained Chris’s British spelling and punctuation!]

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Looking for Pemberley 

by Christopher Sandrawich

This article, in the nature of a ‘Quest’, is meant to half serious and half fun, and I apologise in advance for any difficulty in working out which half is which. It is a doomed quest because Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy along with Pemberley are all fictional and I apologise if any of your illusions have just been shattered. In “Looking for Pemberley” I was also diverted from this topic firstly by the River Trent and then by the Rutland Arms in Bakewell and so both will feature very largely in what I have to say.

I confess to being absolutely certain when I began this research that the popular choice of Chatsworth would not prove a very realistic proposition. However, I tried to keep an open mind. It fails primarily on economic grounds. Chatsworth is a palace, like Blenheim Palace or Warwick Castle. It is obviously the home of an aristocrat, with a very large income needed to run it. Our hero, Darcy is just plain “Mr”, but he is alluded to as someone who could be, “reasonably looked up to as one of the most illustrious personages in this land” by Mr Collins who likes to get his facts right, and so there is some room for doubt. We’ll see as this paper mirrors the trail of research I followed, that my view has, “been shifting about pretty much” like Elizabeth says in her explanation to Jane concerning her varying feelings about Wickham and Darcy. However, Jane Austen when creating her fiction had a perfect right to have none, one or a dozen gentlemen’s country homes in mind.

We have a few pointers on how Jane Austen found material for her novels. Gaye King, a former Chairman of The Jane Austen Society Midlands, discovered that Jane Austen stayed with her cousin the Rev Edward Cooper and his family, at Hamstall Ridware in Staffordshire, directly after visiting Stoneleigh Abbey. We can match

  • Colonel Brandon’s Delaford in Sense and Sensibility with the Parsonage at Hamstall Ridware,
  • Stoneleigh Abbey itself with Northanger Abbey and
  • Stoneleigh Abbey’s chapel with that described in Mansfield Park and found in Mr Rushworth’s country home Sotherton. The landscaper Repton is the only one mentioned in any of the books and he worked on Stoneleigh Abbey and is the landscaper suggested for Sotherton.

Also, we have character’s names. Anyone who has read Sense and Sensibility will be interested in hearing that in addition to Colonel Brandon’s Delaford with its great garden walls, dovecote and stewponds matching Edward Cooper’s Rectory we have people known to, or friends of, the Coopers: Ferrars spelt with two “e’s” but still with an ‘F’, Dashwood, Palmer, and Jennings. Also, the Austens would have passed through Middleton on their journey from Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire to Hamstall, and in addition Lord Middleton was a distant relation of Mrs Austen and she, herself, was named after the sister of the first Lord Middleton – Cassandra Willoughby. There we have six characters in the book straight off.

So Jane Austen has a proven track record, just like other novelists, of borrowing scenes and people from her memory when writing her novels and with the places mentioned above we have it on record that she visited them. Did our Jane go into Derbyshire? This is a good question and one which we will consider.

Rebecca


Rebecca may seem an odd place to start but I have my motives. Daphne du Maurier wrote Rebecca which was published in 1938 when she was in Alexandria, Egypt, where her husband was posted. What a lot of people do not know is that before she went to Egypt, Daphne du Maurier was travelling in Derbyshire with an Aunt, on her Father’s side, and she had sat up late one night in her hotel bedroom reading Pride and Prejudice.

When she joined her Aunt for breakfast next morning, just as coffee was being poured, she said, “Last night I dreamt I went to Pemberley again”, but her Aunt who was hard-of-hearing and had lived in the far east, replied, “What was that dear, Manderley?” thinking no doubt of the similarity with  the road to  Mandalay . . . . . . . and so one of the great opening lines of a novel was born, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”, and Daphne, borrowing a napkin from the maid, wrote it down there and then.

So we can see that the closeness in spelling, and the shape of the word, between Manderley and Pemberley is not just co-incidental after all. I owe this information to my Uncle Jim whose best friend Eric’s mother Edith was the very lady pouring the coffee and passing napkins as a maid in that very same hotel.

Now if you suggest that I have just made all this up, as indeed you might, then I may reply as did Pooh-Bah in the Mikado, “Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic veri-similitude to a bald and unconvincing narrative.” And I hope to avoid molten lead, as he was promised, for my pains.  I fully expect that if this news spreads far and wide that plaques on hotel walls all over Derbyshire will appear claiming they were the very hotel where Daphne stayed and that they have her copy of Pride and Prejudice left by the bedside to prove it. Just why I have been involving us all in a flight of fancy will hopefully become clear later. People make things up you know!

As I mentioned above Rebecca was published in 1938 and was then adapted for film in 1940.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice was published two hundred years ago in 1813. Helen Jerome adapted it for the stage in 1935, and a Broadway musical First Impressions sprang from that. Helen Jerome’s adaptation was used again in 1940 for the film starring Laurence Olivier as Darcy, and a much too mature Greer Garson, as Elizabeth.

We won’t find Pemberley on a 1930’s Broadway stage and we can look in vain at the MGM film for it too. The nearest we get is an indoor scene were Bingley, distracted by his sister’s disparaging remarks about Jane and Elizabeth, plays a false shot and rips Darcy’s billiard table cloth. The whole room at Pemberley, as well as Meryton and Longbourn, were the product of the work of carpenters on MGM’s Hollywood studio lots. This adaptation did not even include the Gardiners.

TV Miniseries: Darcy and Elizabeth

After this film we have a glut of Television Miniseries appearing in the 1950’s and 1960’s (one in Italian and one by the Dutch which I shall skip over) and we do have interesting UK pairings for Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet:

  • 1952 Peter Cushing and Daphne Slater
  • 1958 Alan Badel and Jane Downs
  • 1967 Lewis Fiander and Celia Bannerman

Which, I believe, are all BBC productions: in those days ITV saw a limited audience for expensive to produce “costume-drama”, and as all the action on TV takes place in-doors we have no large buildings to show.

Peter Cushing photograph

We have not time to see them all but I could not resist finding a picture of Peter Cushing suitably dressed for his part of Darcy, which he would have played when 39 years of age.

Notable points emerging from the Outside

We are going to look at houses used in TV adaptations and in films. It will be interesting to compare the features presented by these choices with the novel’s description so when you view the houses try and put a mental tick against any point in favour of the house as a reliable model for Pemberley.

  • Pemberley stood on the opposite side of a valley when first seen
  • Large handsome stone building
  • Standing well on rising ground
  • Backed by a ridge of high woody hills
  • In front a stream of some natural importance (that) has swelled into greater
  • Without any artificial appearance
  • They descended the hill crossed the bridge and drove up to the front door

Notable points emerging from the Inside

Inside from a window Lizzy Bennet’s prospect was

  • The hill, crowned with wood from which they had descended receiving increased abruptness from the distance
  • The river, the trees scattered along its banks
  • The winding of the valley as far as she could trace

So, what we should be looking for is a house that matches as many of these ten key points as possible. Many of them only manage one, and we begin with:

Renishaw Hall

Renishaw Hall, in Derbyshire, was used as Pemberley for the 1980 BBC TV adaptation starring David Rintoul as Darcy and Elizabeth Garvie as Lizzy Bennet. The Sitwell fortune was made as colliery owners and ironmasters from the 17th to the 20th centuries, and Renishaw Hall has been the Sitwell family home for 350 years. The Bingley sisters can be as “sniffy” as they like about money arising ‘from trade’, and be hypocritical when doing it, but most of the aristocratic families had land and capital and they used old money for trade to make new money. The beautiful gardens you can see, including an Italianate garden, are open to the public.

Lyme Hall

Lyme Hall, Disley, is in Cheshire, and was used as Pemberley in the now quite famous 1995 BBC adaptation starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth (which lady can ever forget his wet shirt). The house is the largest in Cheshire and is now owned by the National Trust. It had been in the Leigh family’s possession from 1388 until 1948.

The clever angle of the TV camera, as the Gardiner’s carriage stops and Lizzy takes her first look at “Pemberley”, made the stretch of water in front of the house look as much like a river as possible but it is of course more accurately described as ‘a large pond’.

Wilton House

For the 2005 P&P Wilton House near Salisbury in Wiltshire was used for many of the interior scenes (photograph by John Goodall).

Wilton House is situated near Salisbury in Wiltshire. It has been the country seat of the Earls of Pembroke for over 400 years. Now when you look at this house you may be wondering in which Pride and Prejudice you have seen it. Well, you haven’t seen the outside view BUT when Elizabeth and the Gardiners go into Lyme Hall they are seen inside Wilton House instead. A typical illusion pulled off with ease by TV and filmmakers and unless you are familiar with these homes you might never know.

There is a clue to this “switch” for the very observant; when Elizabeth, at the front of the house, takes in the view outside from the window the “lake” has trees along its nearside whereas Lyme Park does not.

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House in Derbyshire is one of England’s most famous country homes and is owned by the Duke of Devonshire. Chatsworth was used as Pemberley in the 2005 film version starring Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet.

Chatsworth House in the 18th C

Chatsworth House in the 18th Century an oil painting by William Marlow (1740 – 1813)

This painting (by William Marlow) gets us as close to seeing how Chatsworth looked when the 6th Duke inherited Chatsworth in 1811. Earlier works show bare-headed hill tops behind and so you will notice that there has been a lot of tree planting on the higher ground. We can see that the terrain Chatsworth stands in seems more sharply rising than the others.

So is Chatsworth Pemberley? Well let’s take a closer look at the 6th Duke and remember that Chatsworth is not really a house at all but like Blenheim, it is a Palace. Could Darcy on only £10,000 yearly income (even if it was very likely more as Mrs Bennet cheerfully speculates) manage such a home? It is difficult if not impossible to imagine how this level of income compares to today’s standards as lifestyles have changed so much. If we look at the RPI then £10,000 looks like only £500,000 in today’s purchasing power but if instead we look at the growth in earnings then £10,000 gets close to £8,000,000 so you can see the difficulties. Take your pick, but if a Curate could manage on £50pa then £10,000 is relative wealth two centuries ago.

A popular myth these days is that Darcy was one of the richest people in England. Afraid not, if he was on only £10,000 yearly, Jane’s brother Edward, adopted by the Knight family, had an income of £15,000pa and mere farmers to be found everywhere could have incomes of £10,000 to £40,000pa.

Louis Simond a Frenchman living in New York with his English wife toured England in 1811 – 12 and wrote an interesting sharply observed journal, which is full of facts and figures. He quotes the value of farmland in England at the time as 40/- to 45/- an acre for rent. Now if you worked the land you were expecting a profit so an acre would actually yield a larger income than the rents.

William Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858) – Thomas Lawrence

The 6th Duke owned 3 houses in fashionable London and many great estates in England and one in Ireland with a combined size of 200,000 acres. In Derbyshire he had 83,000 acres. Now not all the Duke’s land would be useable farmland and he would have had hills, woods and boggy ground eating into his farming income. But let us not forget that his powerful ancestors were amongst the first-comers and all the estates were set in favourable local conditions; so an estimate of 50% of his lands being utilised for farming could actually be conservative. Taking the mid-value of Louis Simond’s range and this estimate of the 6th Duke’s farming lands we can estimate his income as over £200,000pa.

Having done this exercise it is most disappointing to find that the Duke’s income for the period was assessed as only £70,000 yearly. Donald Greene quotes this on page 316 and gives his source as David Cannadine’s book, “The Landowner as Millionaire: The Finances of the Dukes of Devonshire”. This £70,000 yearly, after various mortgages and jointures were paid, left him with only with “a clear” £26,000 pa. Where might the discrepancy be? After all, if only £70,000 is drawn from over 200,000 acres then we conclude that only one-sixth of the land was rented for farming leaving five-sixths unutilised which seems untenable as a proposition and seems very unlikely behaviour from a Duke encumbered with debts not to instruct his servants to maximise his farming income.

The Duke’s estates were large and widespread and he would have to rely on stewards and many others in the management of these estates, so I am reminded of the second of Mr Bennet’s remarks to Jane on her engagement to Bingley. “You are each of you so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always exceed your income.” But “cheating” on this massive scale seems unlikely as well, as how could such a small group of servants disguise, hide or profit from this wealth without drawing attention to themselves. So for me the suggested shortfall in income remains a mystery.

Harewood House

Harewood House is near Leeds in West Yorkshire and it was built from 1759 to 1771 for wealthy trader Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood, and is still home to the Lascelles family. It was used as Pemberley in the ITV series “Lost in Austen” starring Jemima Roper as the ‘lost girl’ who eventually swops fates with Elizabeth, played by Gemma Arterton, and gets to marry Darcy played by Elliot Cowan. I personally really enjoyed the series, fanciful though it was.

How are your mental scores or ticks for the various houses going? Well we have run out of houses to look at as shown on TV and Film but we are still on our quest, and Chatsworth for me, is the only one we have seen which matches the novel’s description.

My next step is to look at the thoughts on “Where is Pemberley” amongst many eminent authors and scholars who were giving this subject a lot of thought in the 20th Century and who are now sadly no longer with us.

Elizabeth Jenkins

Elizabeth Jenkins died in 2010 aged 104, and she was a very distinguished novelist and historian and whose research for Jane Austen A Biography published in 1938 makes it still a very widely regarded work.

In 1958 she saw, in the Rutland Arms, Bakewell, a Notice making claims about Jane Austen staying in a room there whilst revising her novel Pride and Prejudice in 1811. She was “taken aback by these statements” and she could not get the author, Elizabeth Davie, who claimed the Bakewell: Official Guide, and by inference Mr V R Cockerton who wrote the introduction which Ms Davie quotes from pretty much word for word, as a reliable source for her claims, to retract them over exchanges lasting 6 or 7 years on and off. Elizabeth Jenkins never did get hold of a copy of the Bakewell Official Guide and in turn pursue Mr Cockerton, which is unfortunate as I have found all trails now run cold.

It is well worth mentioning that the latest Official Guide to Bakewell now says under a photo of the Rutland Hotel, and I quote, “William Wordsworth and J M W Turner were among the famous who visited the hotel. Jane Austen, contrary to popular story, did not; Pride and Prejudice was not written here and she is not known to have visited Derbyshire.” If you visit the Rutland Arms as I did only this year and enquire you will be confidently assured that Jane Austen stayed there and that there is a Notice about it that anyone can view. Hotel Staff do not know who wrote the notice, or that its original source was out-of-date editions of the Official Guide to Bakewell. They are further unaware that the same Guide now flatly refutes this assertion. They remain blissfully ignorant, but are very nice about it.

Getting back to the fifty year old dispute between Elizabeth Jenkins and Elizabeth Davie, the impasse reached led to Elizabeth Jenkins publishing an article in the JAS Report 1965 supported by the whole Jane Austen Society Committee rebutting the Notice’s claims saying they are entirely without foundation.

Strong stuff; but what exactly did the Notice say? Let’s look at the Rutland Arms.

Rutland Arms: Bakewell

Here is a side-view of the hotel in Bakewell called the Rutland Arms and it seems hardly likely to be the centre of a major literary controversy. Behind those walls we can find what the Notice says, and despite Elizabeth Jenkins best efforts it is still there?

The Notice was originally displayed right outside Bedroom No 2 (in the photo first find the door, then the window above; now go to the window on the left and you have Bedroom No 2). The Notice is now sited in the Reception area, and I write it out and put some stress on the contentious parts which will be discussed later:

In this room in the year 1811, Jane Austen revised the manuscript of her famous book “Pride and Prejudice”. It had been written in 1797, but Jane Austen who travelled in Derbyshire in 1811 chose to introduce the beauty spots of the Peak into her novel. The Rutland Arms Hotel was built in 1804, and while staying in this new and comfortable inn we have reason to believe that Miss Austen visited Chatsworth only three miles away and was so impressed by its beauty and grandeur that she made it the background for Pemberley, the home of the proud and handsome Mr Darcy hero of “Pride and Prejudice”.

 The small town of “Lambton” mentioned in the novel is easily identifiable as Bakewell, and any visitor driving thence to Chatsworth must immediately be struck by Miss Austen’s faithful portrayal of the scene  —— the “large handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground and backed by a ridge of woody hills”. There it is today, exactly as Jane Austen saw it all those long years ago.

Elizabeth Bennet heroine of the story had returned to the inn to dress for dinner, when the sound of the carriage drew her to the window. She saw a curricle driving up the street, undoubtedly Matlock Street, which these windows overlook, and presently she heard a quick foot upon the stair, the very staircase outside this door.

So, when visiting this hotel and staying in this room, remember that it is the scene of two of the most romantic passages in” Pride and Prejudice” and “Pride and Prejudice” must surely take its place among the most famous novels in the English Language.

Rutland Arms Brochure  

It is possibly all for the best that Elizabeth Jenkins did not see the new brochure, because there is more. In the 1960’s the inn was owned by Stretton’s Derby Brewers Ltd, but the last time I looked it was owned by David Donegan, a retired solicitor. The brochure says (and I could only see the on-line version as they were waiting for a fresh package from their printers), and hang onto your hats while I quote from it,

“The Rutland has played host to several celebrated guests in its long history. Jane Austen stayed here in 1811 while revising her novel ”Pride and Prejudice”, using her room as the background for two scenes in the book and engraving sketches in the glass, still visible today”

The idea that Jane Austen would etch something on the windows of an Inn I find simply startling, and wonder just how this new information has come to light since the original Official Guide and the Notice. It seems obvious that the Hotel have not read the current Official Guide or remember hearing from Elizabeth Jenkins.

Objections to the Notice

Elizabeth Jenkins attacked the Notice on three main issues:

[ 1 ] She recited all of the reasons already mentioned why a Palace like Chatsworth is outside Darcy’s league, although she conceded the similarities in appearance, but she counters that there are in England many other houses that are a reasonable  fit for ‘Pemberley’ too.

[ 2 ] Bakewell is NOT Lambton. A careful reading of the novel reveals that the Gardiners and Elizabeth are staying in Bakewell and when discussing their next step to visit Mrs Gardiner’s friends in Lambton they choose a route so as to see Pemberley on their way.

We will identify where Lambton, a fictitious Town might be later, but the novel indicates a three mile plus journey from Bakewell to Pemberley and then a five and a bit mile stretch to Lambton from there. We can have some fun at the Film and TV Adaptations’ expense now as some of them share this confusion between Bakewell and Lambton and the relative distances.

In the Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson film they neatly avoid all issues by omitting the Gardiners and the trip to Derbyshire altogether.

In the David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvie TV Adaptation Lizzy is seen reading Jane’s letters revealing Lydia’s elopement while in their rooms at the Inn in Lambton and snatching up her hat and shawl she is seen running out of the room and then onto the approaches to Pemberley and into the House. This sequence gives the idea that this is no big deal and Elizabeth is only slightly breathless. Now I know that Elizabeth Bennet is fit, but five miles across undulating country – in the height of mid-summer – and encumbered with a long dress and petticoats and all the while clutching her letters! Suspend disbelief if you can.

This running is catching. In the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth version we have the Gardiners already staying in Lambton, so the rationalé behind their visit to Pemberley no longer holds. But leaving that aside, when Mrs Gardiner mentions Lambton we see Darcy’s eyes light up and he describes how, when a young boy, he ran to the village green in Lambton to a tree by the smithy every day in the horse-chestnut season. I think that bit isn’t in the book because Jane Austen would reckon no boy of sense runs over ten miles daily to get conkers when he could get all he could carry within a few hundred yards of home. Unless, of course, stealing the village boys’ conkers was his aim.

In the Keira Knightley film version her Aunt and Uncle, from whom she was temporarily separated, inexplicably leave her behind at Pemberley, which seems excessively harsh treatment for not ‘keeping-up’. Lizzy refuses Darcy’s help with transport and says she’ll walk. She has never been to Lambton in her life let alone to Pemberley and to this part of Derbyshire but she boldly sets off across five miles of rough country beginning with crossing the Derwent and climbing out of the steep valley Chatsworth is in. The film shows her crossing fields and not following any path. Not only did she mystically pick exactly the right direction but without any roads or signposts to help she unerringly finds The Rose and Crown in a small town in the middle of nowhere.

Sorry, for the diversion, back to Elizabeth Jenkins and her next point.

[ 3 ] She consulted the foremost authority at that time on all things Austen, Dr R W Chapman at Oxford with the question of Austen touring Derbyshire. He replied, “no evidence that she was ever north of the Trent”.

That was enough for Elizabeth Jenkins but some other smaller details in the Notice took my eye and I’ll share them with you.

[ 4 ] Two of the most romantic scenes in the novel! Well I do not think so. Let’s have a look at Bedroom No 2 which is where the visits occur. The room is very small but it has to be this room as it is adjacent to the stairs, and it is believed to have been permanently connected to the room next along, from which it is now divided by doors, and used as a Reception Room. It will help if we mentally ignore the décor and remove the bed. I can also imagine the sucking in of breath over teeth for any builder asked to enlarge a room that has two outside walls, one wall leading onto a landing and the last wall being almost all chimney breast for the large fireplace downstairs which was there when the hotel was built. I asked. So by the time we put in a table large enough for six along with chairs it will look cramped in this half of the reception room. Of course, as Jane Austen was making it all up, and if using the Rutland Arms as her model, then all she had to do was ‘imagine’ it large enough.

In the novel it holds Elizabeth with her Aunt and Uncle, although Ms Davie clearly leaves out the Gardiners in her depiction, and when the curricle arrives it rapidly fills up, first with Darcy and his sister, Georgiana, and then Bingley who joins them afterwards. A fraught and tense introductory meeting, yes; but not the stuff of romance.

The only other meeting taking place would be when Jane’s letters about Lydia’s elopement with Wickham have upset Elizabeth, and Darcy unexpectedly arrives and gives what help and comfort he can until the Gardiners return. For most of the time Darcy and Elizabeth are both very much preoccupied and caught up in their private thoughts and concerns. Romantic? Hardly; when he leaves Elizabeth never expects to see Darcy again!

[ 5 ] She heard Darcy’s quick foot on the stairs. The novel does not mention this but it does with Bingley’s arrival, when it is “Bingley’s quick step was heard on the stairs.”

[ 6 ] My last problem with the Notice is over ‘line of sight’. Here we have a view from the window, which is not the one you saw at the side of the Rutland Arms as this window looks out of the front of the hotel. Elizabeth Davie has Lizzy Bennet noticing the curricle arriving, and it would help considerably if the street you can see outside was Matlock Street. The Devil is in the detail they say. The street outside, running towards the front of the hotel, is Rutland Square and that is definitely the one you take to get to Chatsworth House which is to the east of Bakewell. Matlock Street is the A6 running broadly north to south and, apart from the first few yards, it is well out of sight and bending away from the right-hand side of this window. Matlock Street unsurprisingly goes south to Matlock and getting further away from Chatsworth with every yard.

Now we must remember that Georgiana only arrived with a large party in time for a late breakfast and they arrive to see Elizabeth before dinner, so that means Georgiana has only had a brief time to eat, change and collect herself before getting into the curricle with her brother. It would be unreasonable to suppose that she would have wanted to go sightseeing, or take a detour. So for Elizabeth Davie to be right, and for Darcy’s curricle to be coming up Matlock Street, we must accept the unlikely premise that Darcy has completely lost his way within three miles of his birthplace and home.

By the by, there are etchings on the bottom three frames of glass but you cannot see them in this photograph, although they are visible to the naked eye. They looked random and of the “Kilroy was here” variety. None of them seem remotely connected to Jane Austen, and which one, or many, the Hotel Brochure has in mind as Jane Austen’s artwork is not known to the staff we asked.

There is a big danger that when finding a lot of Ms Davie’s statements failing to stand up to close scrutiny that we cast doubt over all of them. Without looking at anything else, and without any supporting evidence anyway, it is reasonable already to be inclined to disbelieve, or doubt, all the other assertions made by Elizabeth Davie. However, some of them may be true, but which ones?

When I first read Dr Chapman’s reply it struck me as an odd choice of words: to say that someone definitely did not cross a particular river. Other ideas came as I was considering the novel. It also seemed that the Gardiners and Elizabeth took an odd route from Meryton to Derbyshire.

Gardiner’s route to Derbyshire

Here is a diagram showing the major points mentioned as being included in their journey: Oxford, Blenheim, Warwick, Kenelworth, Birmingham and finally Chatsworth, and I’ve connected the dots to emphasise the directions taken as they zagged and zigged across England. Their journey has always struck me as odd even when we think of the large houses to view along the route: Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, Stoneleigh Abbey and eventually Chatsworth. Does the mention of Chatsworth in the novel, by the way, serve as a clue to Jane Austen wishing to disguise it’s modelling for Pemberley, or is she ruling it out by making clear that Pemberley and Chatsworth are two separate places? This is a good question without a satisfactory answer.

I digress; back to the odd journey. It’s the last lurch to Birmingham that always confused me. There is no stated reason to go there to view a large house, and it is unlikely that there was one. I found that I began to think again about R W Chapman’s remark and the importance given to the Trent, in conjunction with this journey.

Well what I found out about the River Trent surprised me. Two hundred years ago it was the natural boundary between the north and south of England. Also, “Trent” is a Gaelic word suggesting “severe flooding” and the crossing points for the Trent were by fords, except for a bridge, often in poor repair, at Burton. The other natural feature to add to the Trent’s sheer size and power is that the Trent like the Severn is tidal and has a “bore”; so twice a day there is a surging three to five foot wave coming upstream.

When I was researching for a talk on communications and I looked at how bad weather affected carriages I was struck by the utterance of one seasoned traveller:

“Give me a collision, a broken axle, and an overturn, a runaway team, a drunken coachman, snowstorms howling tempests . . . . . . . . . . but heaven preserve us from floods.”

And I wondered if the initial lurch west of nearly 70 miles to Oxfordshire and the last lurch mainly west of 20 miles to Birmingham was for no other reason than to put the travellers as far WEST as possible where the Trent would have the least amount of water flowing in it and be as far from the sea and the effects of the bore as possible. Jane Austen knew that her audience would expect any north-bound traveller to be wary of floods when crossing the Trent, and the usual way to avoid problems was to cross at Burton where there had been a bridge since, it is suggested, Roman times. Now First Impressions, the original name for Pride and Prejudice was first written in 1797 and so I looked for a reason why Jane Austen might think that the Gardiners would not wish to cross the Great Bridge at Burton which also means going from east to west as the Trent is flowing north at that point and so going to Birmingham would have been a much longer way around.

We should take note of the description given by a Mr Plot around 1700 of an ancient claim to distinction of the Great Bridge being, “the most notorious piece of work of a civil public building in the county or perhaps in England” and that the River Trent divided into three separate channels at Burton and the bridge had 34 arches spanning over 500 yards with water running through. It went in a series of curves as well. The Great Bridge must have been quite a sight.

Also owing to a sudden thaw on 10th February 1795 the Trent rose higher than it had been known before and no mail or wagon passed in or out of the town for two days. Many parts of the bridge were damaged and on Friday 13th February 1795 one of the arches fell in. The website British History On-line mentions regular floods at Burton and significantly has three occurring in the 1790’s. Now as the preceding one was 1771 and the next 1830, then we must assume these three mentions of floods were significant rather than just the regular minor seasonal flooding of the Trent that was just to be expected. Major floods in the 1790’s may have influenced Jane Austen’s thoughts about crossing the Trent at Burton and she might have been influenced by all these reports of difficulties and fairly negative news. Lots of large floods which would swamp the land around Burton and the bridge may have actually still been under on-going repair when she wrote her first drafts. Although these problems may well have diminished by the time Jane Austen revised the book for publishing over ten years later she may have felt there was no need to alter this part.

A Route Avoiding Burton?

As we have already mentioned Jane Austen together with her sister Cassandra and her Mother visited Jane’s cousin Edward Cooper Rector at St Michael and All Angels at Hamstall Ridware in Staffordshire. They had been staying in Stoneleigh Abbey with their relations the wealthy Leigh family, where they would have visited Kenilworth Castle and Warwick Castle, as both were only a few miles away. Their visit was made in 1806 and we know from her diaries that Edward Cooper’s Mother-in-law, Mrs Philip Lybbe Powys (a friend of Mrs Austen), visited in 1805 and her diaries show a tour was made into Derbyshire to see The Peak, Matlock and Dovedale. So, why not view Chatsworth while they were there?

Before we leap, as I did, to an instant conclusion that a repeat visit in the following year must have been made by the Austens and Coopers, I have Deidre le Faye to thank for the report that within one week of the Austens’ arrival all eight of the Cooper children went down with whooping cough. As their visit only lasted five weeks it seems unlikely that any such visit could have been managed unless they went straight away which is very unlikely. However, they had all the time they wished to talk about the earlier trip and discuss it with maps, magazines and books of reference. Jane Austen could have found out everything she needed to know about Chatsworth for her novel from the Coopers. This may well just be speculation but it seems more probable than just possible.

It also explains, to me at least, why the Gardiners took their route through Birmingham, which was at that time a noisy, dirty rapidly sprawling and major manufacturing centre and hardly a tourist attraction. However, if you come to it from Kenilworth it lines up with the road north through Lichfield to Hamstall Ridware and an easy crossing of the Trent, which is probably the way the Austens went. Jane Austen has a habit of using her practical experience to flavour her novels. She also knew how to get to Derbyshire from Hamstall by following the Cooper’s route north towards Uttoxeter and then Ashbourne and Debyshire.

For Elizabeth to get back at a rush following news of Lydia’s escapades and in the timings allowed by the novel and the relative speeds (8 mph in summer means the 150 or so miles would take just over 16 hours) of the carriages of the day with regular changes of horses and only one overnight stop they must have gone back by a more direct route and chanced the crossing of the River Trent at Burton. Look at me! Discussing a journey only ever made on paper!

Willersley Castle

Elizabeth Jenkins mentions during her long demolition job on the Notice that the Duke of Devonshire’s family had their own views on which house in the neighbourhood would be a good model for Pemberley. She says,”Sir William Makins has been told by Mary, Duchess of Devonshire, that in the Chatsworth neighbourhood it used to be said that Willersley, near Cromford, was the original of Pemberley.”

The Rev Mr R Ward who published one of the early 19th century Guides to the Peak of Derbyshire gave descriptions of both Chatsworth and Willersley Castle, and it is more than possible that Jane Austen would have had access to this guide, making a northern tour unnecessary. In The Rev Ward’s description of Willersley Castle he mentions the winding river at the front of the house – beyond it is seen a lawn on the farther side and on a very elevated part of which stands Willersley Castle, backed by high ground and wood. Ward then describes a stone bridge with three arches, and goes on to say that behind this and further to the east, rises a very elevated woody country.

Willersley Castle, which is now a Christian Guild Hotel, was built in the late 18th Century by the industrialist Sir Richard Arkwright. It is sited at Cromford on the River Derwent and stands on the slopes of “Wild Cat Tor” which is 400 feet above sea level. I found it interesting that the Wikipedia Page for Willersley Castle says he bought the estate from Thomas Hallet Hodges for £8,864 in 1782. However, the Wikipedia Page on Sir Richard Arkwright says he paid £20,000 to William Nightingale (Florence Nightingale’s father) in 1788. I’ve mentioned the inconsistency to Wikipedia ages ago but I can see no movement to correct either page. When I mentioned this curious discrepancy to the hotel staff they compounded the confusion by saying it was thought the land was sold by the 5th Duke of Devonshire.

When Sir Richard Arkwright died in 1792 he left £500,000, which at 5% interest on Government Securities would have generated an income of £25,000 pa. This puts him into Darcy’s league if a little better placed.

I have been to Willersley Castle and although many features are a good fit for Pemberley it has some drawbacks. It does not have a ‘picture gallery’ or a great staircase. If the house is viewed by carriage from the cliffs opposite then, without travelling many miles out of the way, there is no quick way down, other than a one-way plummet. There is also no way you can see the River Derwent from the ground floor of the Castle as the ground drops away quickly on a convex slope. But in a novel it doesn’t have to fit exactly, does it? Artistic licence?

Painting of Willersley Castle

When Kevin George, the General Manager at this hotel, supplied information he said this painting was the work of, “a chap called Whittle” and Thomas Whittle is the right period and this is his style – but I am no art expert – and I show it because it confirms what is possible with a little artistic licence because a painting or a book does not have to stick to facts if the artist does not wish to.

Where’s “Wild Cat Tor” gone? A physical feature you can see from miles away.

Donald Greene

It was at this point that I came across Donald Greene and found he had written an essay entitled, “The Original of Pemberley?” Donald Greene was aged 83 when he died in 1997 and he was a literary critic, English Professor and scholar of British literature particularly the eighteenth century period, and was a noted expert on Samuel Johnson. Greene was Canadian by birth and took his MA at University College London and seems to have spent his teaching and academic life at various American universities.

His essay demonstrates meticulous research and I found myself following in the footsteps of a master as he danced through the available information on this subject including what I have already seen from Elizabeth Jenkins and Elizabeth Davie. I do not have time to go through all that Donald Greene has to say, these are only selected highlights.

He agrees with the demolition job done by Elizabeth Jenkins on Elizabeth Davie, but points out that she said little about the claim that “The description of Pemberley is a faithful portrait of Chatsworth” and I agree with Donald Greene that this is “the acid test”.

The first item he establishes is that the fictitious name Lambton is in all probability Old Brampton, as it was then known, a village five miles east of Chatsworth. Now it is part of the urban sprawl to the west of the centre of Chesterfield but in 1812 it was a distinct and separate community.

As we can see from this map the road from Bakewell to Old Brampton takes us close to Chatsworth.

Donald Greene is not easily deflected from testing the narrative describing Pemberley against Chatsworth’s physical features. However, before we get into a comparison between Jane Austen’s description of Pemberley and its grounds I would like you to see an extract from the novel at the start of Chapter 43, as this description is all important, you need to have it fresh in your minds:

Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation; and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.

The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground. They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.

Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!

They descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door; and, while examining the nearer aspect of the house, all her apprehensions of meeting its owner returned. She dreaded lest the chambermaid had been mistaken. On applying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall; and Elizabeth, as they waited for the housekeeper, had leisure to wonder at her being where she was.

The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking elderly woman, much less fine, and more civil, than she had any notion of finding her. They followed her into the dining-parlour. It was a large, well-proportioned room, handsomely fitted up. Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill, crowned with wood, from which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene — the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it — with delight.

Topography of Chatsworth

Greene suggests the actual route making use of detailed maps shown below. I will refer to key passages from the book and give you Greene’s remarks on the physical route. The correspondence is staggering, I assure you.

Chatsworth House with Hunting Tower (photograph by Paul Collins) used as Pemberley in the scenes for Joe Wright’s 2005 P&P

  • Novel: they turned in at the lodge. Greene: the lodge is still there – a substantial 18th C stone building called Beeley Lodge which is 350 feet above sea level.
  • Novel: They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley. Greene: The road (B6012) here rises 150 feet to the 500 foot level at a “spur” and the wood indeed does still cease at this point “A” affording an impressive view of Chatsworth across the valley
  • Novel: standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance Greene: The steep slopes behind the house are densely wooded and there are two unobtrusive weirs that effect this “swelling” of the River Derwent at that point.
  • Novel: They descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door; Greene: The road does descend from this point to a lovely bridge built by James Paine in 1762 when the 4th Duke of Devonshire transformed Chatsworth by turning it to face the river instead of the hillside, and the entrance was then, as now, on the north.
  • Novel: On applying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall . . . . . .   The housekeeper came; . . . . . . . . . . . . . They followed her into the dining-parlour Greene: The ‘dining-parlour’ would have been what in the 19th Century was called the buffet room, the lower dining room or the morning room; it is now called the Lower Library, and is used by the present Duke and Duchess as their private sitting room.
  • We now have the prospect from a window
  • Novel: Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill, crowned with wood, from which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene — the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it Greene: The windows of this room do face west, looking across the Derwent at the hill from which they had descended and the view or the river, trees and valley is exactly as Elizabeth describes.

There seems to be an exact match between Pemberley, as described through the eyes of the Gardiners and Elizabeth, with the actual layout and topography of Chatsworth’s grounds and Park. The description of what can be seen from inside the house, especially, does create the suspicion, a strong suspicion in my case, that Jane Austen actually saw, or closely questioned a keen observer who saw, what she describes through Elizabeth’s eyes. Therefore, we could conclude that Jane Austen, or someone she talked closely to, must have toured Chatsworth, but as nobody left any evidence, then we have no proof.

Wentworth Woodhouse

Wentworth Woodhouse is the largest private home in England, and with the longest frontage (606 feet long) or façade in Europe. At the 2013 JASNA AGM and Conference held at the end of September in Minneapolis with a theme devoted to Pride and Prejudice and all things Jane Austen, Professor Janine Barchus presented ideas on Wentworth Woodhouse being the model for Pemberley. It is a notion that has a lot going for it especially with the connection of names. It was owned by Earl Fitzwilliam and listed amongst his relations we have the D’Arcy’s an old aristocratic family from the north of England. However, I have my doubts based on geography. Wentworth Woodhouse is in Yorkshire, near Rotherham, and is therefore considerably more than 3 miles from Bakewell, and topography seems an issue again. Where is our rising ground, our stream in front, the thickly wooded hills steeply rising behind, a three-arched bridge to cross and finally stables to walk around the corner of the house from for Darcy to surprise his visitors on the lawn, these can all be looked for in vain. Then there is the question of size. Wentworth Woodhouse had a park of only 180 acres, although the Estate comprised an additional 15,000 acres. Pemberley has a Park ten miles around. As a circle this gives a diameter of just over three miles and an area of just over 5000 acres. If instead we made the Park square with edges 2.5 miles long the acreage becomes 4000 acres and still far too large for Wentworth Woodhouse. No Phaeton and pony required for a mere 180 acres which is just over a quarter of a square mile in area. So Wentworth Woodhouse is amongst the runners, but it is not my favourite.

Co-incidences and Similarities with Chatsworth

  • When Elizabeth replies to Mrs Gardiner’s suggestion that they visit Pemberley her reply is, “She must own that she was tired of great houses; after going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets and satin curtains”. As Elizabeth had just been to Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle and we suppose Stoneleigh Abbey then this comment places Pemberley as being in the same class. Jane Austen was very familiar with the distinctions between a “Great House” and a superior gentleman’s residence. Pemberley contains a Picture Gallery and a Great Staircase which are typically found in “Great Houses”, and are found in Chatsworth.
  • When Elizabeth and her aunt return Georgiana’s visit they are shown into a saloon which might be the present Ante-Library (then the little dining room) at Chatsworth. Elizabeth is able to see a “prospect” of the Pemberley grounds not yet encountered, and the windows, “admitted a most refreshing view of the high woody hills, and of the beautiful oaks and Spanish chestnuts which were scattered over the intermediate lawn.” This room does look to the east, facing the hillside, and the trees described are still there.
  • It really would be easier to buy Chatsworth/Pemberley than to find similar ground and build another
  • Chatsworth has a large library that is the work of many generations
  • The Palladian stables are exactly where they need to be to have Darcy appear round the corner from them
  • They, Pemberley and Chatsworth, each have a park that is about ten miles around. There are very few houses in England with a Park that to go around you need a Phaeton and pony.
  • Pemberley has a Great Staircase and a Picture Gallery, which together with the 5000 acres of Park make it too grand to be just a “superior gentleman’s residence” and very few houses fit this description as well as Chatsworth
  • The route walked by the party fits the park and river at Chatsworth exactly.
  • It is often said that Jane Austen, who was an avid follower of the theatre and its performers’ careers, based the looks, at least, of Elizabeth Bennet on the slim, athletic and attractively dark-eyed Dorethea Jordan who was mistress to the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV. They had ten children and never married but they were all well looked after. So Dorothy Jordan rose from the lower-classes to fascinate one of the most illustrious personages in the land!
  • The 6th Duke was single, and “One of the most illustrious personages in this land” as described by Mr Collins in his letter to Mr Bennet. He was also the most eligible bachelor in England.
  • His father, the 5th Duke, had just died so he inherited in 1811
  • His father, the 5th Duke, was well known for having Georgiana and Elizabeth his wife and mistress living in the same house, Chatsworth. The two ladies apparently got along well for over twenty years of this, and could presumably tut tut to each other about illegitimate children appearing on all sides. However these French sounding goings on contrast well with Jane Austen giving Elizabeth the idea about her marriage to Darcy, when she fears that Lydia’s marriage to Wickham may have ruined its prospect, “But no such happy marriage could now teach the admiring multitude what connubial felicity really was” – Is this Jane Austen being typically ironic by comparing an idyllic marriage for the 6th Duke with the 5th Duke’s more complex arrangements?
  • The 6th Duke’s mother had died some years earlier, as had Lady Anne Darcy.
  • He had a sister called Georgiana
  • His mother’s maiden name was Fitzwilliam, and as mentioned above Earl Fitzwilliam lived 25 miles east of Chatsworth at Wentworth Woodhouse. Jane Austen characters again: Capt Wentworth from Persuasion and Emma Woodhouse the principal character in

Did Jane Austen look out of that Lower Library window?

Well, although I am now inclined to think there is good circumstantial evidence for the notion I have to concede that there is absolutely no proof at all, only conjecture.

So, does Pemberley equal Chatsworth after all?  I am more inclined to believe it is than when I started on this quest. We’ll never know for sure.

If only Jane Austen had etched something on the Duke of Devonshire’s windows in the Lower Library, as she was apparently prone to do!

Panoramic view of Chatsworth House and Park. An oil on canvas by Peter Tilemans (1684 – 1734) at the turn of the 17th/18th Century. Counting animals in the foreground shows the ideas of “picturesque” had not yet taken hold!

 

c2020 Jane Austen in Vermont, c2013 Chris Sandrawich

JASNA-Vermont’s Annual Jane Austen Birthday Tea!

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

 

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

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

Here are the details:

December 8, 2019

1:00-4:30

 

The Essex Resort and Spa

70 Essex Way, Essex Junction, VT

 

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

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The afternoon will include:

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

  • A talk by Deb Barnum and Hope Greenberg on “Proposals in Jane Austen: ‘What did she say?… Just what she ought'” – enlivened with a visual journey through these scenes as played out in the various Austen film adaptations,
  • and, good company—no, the “best company” with “clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation.”

Regency dress is encouraged but not required!

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

Hope you can join us! 

c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont

Blog Tour for “The Bride of Northanger” ~ Interview with Diana Birchall

The Bride of Northanger: A Jane Austen Variation,
by Diana Birchall

Interview with Deb Barnum at Jane Austen in Vermont, November 6, 2019

Dear Readers: Today, I welcome friend (and same-birthday Sagittarian!) Diana Birchall to discuss her new book The Bride of Northanger: A Jane Austen Variation. It is a charming read, a sequel to Austen’s Northanger Abbey (one of a select few), wherein we find Henry Tilney and his betrothed Catherine the evening before their nuptials – it is delightful to see them again, happy in their life at Woodston Parsonage, yet, as you will see, troubled by a number of very real Gothic goings-on – I won’t tell you anymore – just buy it and find out for yourself…!

[I use JAIV for my questions and “DIANA” for the answers, as DB are also my initials and could complicate matters!]

JAIV: Before we launch into a chat about your new book The Bride of Northanger, tell us something about yourself: How and when you discovered Jane Austen; other books you have written, etc.

DIANA: Hi Deb! Thanks for reading my book, and for coming up with such interesting questions. I will try my best to answer them all, “see if I don’t,” as Louisa May Alcott used to say. To start at the beginning, fifty years ago Jane Austen was not as universally popular as she is today; the only known movie was the 1940 Pride and Prejudice with Laurence Olivier and Garson (in dead wrong period costuming), and fan fiction had not yet been invented. Austen was not encountered in school, even for a reading girl in New York City. I had a literary aunt (blessings on you, Miriam Finkelstein!) who recommended Austen, Bronte and Colette, and I adored Charlotte Bronte at 10, Colette at 15 (seeing myself as Claudine in Paris), but did not fall into Austen until age 20. I think the staid title of Pride and Prejudice put me off, but what a delicious revelation it was when I finally opened the covers and fell in!

My first attempt in writing in the Austenesque (long before the term came into existence) was in 1984 when I won a contest in Persuasions, the journal of JASNA, with a jolly Miss Bates monologue. At that exact moment I discovered how much I loved writing pastiche, and I have never stopped doing it since. I churned out sketches and skits, stories and semi-scholarly sundries. My “day job” was as a story analyst, reading novels and screenplays for Warner Bros, and I was also accumulating a formidable pile of my own unpublished novel manuscripts. The first really viable one of these was Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, which I wrote in 1992. Obviously I wasn’t the first person to write a Jane Austen sequel – as you know Jane Austen herself would playfully tell her family what happened to her characters, and nieces and others wrote various completions after her death. However, there were only a handful of these efforts over two centuries, and I believe the most recent had been Pemberley Shades by one Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt in 1949.  So to write a Pride and Prejudice sequel was definitely an idea whose time had come. I was thrilled to find a New York literary agent who was very excited about this “gem,” and predicated a bidding war. Unfortunately, two other authors came up with similar ideas simultaneously, and when I read an item in the London Times in my Los Angeles boho coffeehouse that Emma Tennant was rushing out a P & P sequel, Pemberley, to “beat all the competition” (meaning Julia Barrett’s Presumption, and my debut offering), I lay down on the floor in despair and howled.

It got worse. With Tennant and Barrett established authors coming out with their sequels, no publisher was willing to publish “a third P & P sequel.” You heard that right. Three was too many, when there are hundreds today!  My agent said “I don’t know what happened, but put it away and it will be published in a few years.” And it was. A small English press published Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, and eventually, after the Austen boom was well underway, Sourcebooks picked it up for national U.S. publication (2008). Meanwhile I pressed on. My first actual book acceptance was a scholarly biography of my grandmother, the first Asian American novelist (and Hollywood screenwriter), Onoto Watanna, for the University of Illinois Press (2001). This was very well received, nominated for an MLA Independent Scholar Award, and I found myself lecturing at universities across the country and Canada including Yale, Columbia, NYU, Vancouver and Montreal. I was so elated that simultaneously I wrote the first Jane Austen internet series, for the Janeites list, “In Defense of Mrs. Elton.” This was published by JASNA as the conference gift of the 1999 Colorado Springs AGM, with glorious illustrations by Juliet McMaster, and Sourcebooks later published my “Mrs. Elton in America” as well.

Since then I’ve written hundreds of Austenesque stories, and branched out into playwriting, co-writing two plays for JASNA AGMs with Syrie

Diana Birchall and Syrie James (SyrieJames.com)

James (“The Austen Assizes,” for the Brooklyn AGM of 2012 and “A Dangerous Intimacy: Behind the Scenes in Mansfield Park” in Montreal in 2014) as well as two plays of my own, a “Mrs. Elton in Vancouver” one in 2007, and “You Are Passionate, Jane,” a dialogue in Heaven between Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte (Jane is the literary guardian who decides which writers will enter and she is not fond of Bronte). This was performed at Chawton House Library in 2016, with Syrie as Jane and myself as Bronte, as well as at the Huntington Beach JASNA AGM in 2017 and several other performances. It was almost put on by the Morgan Library in New York, but I was disappointed!

After my retirement from Warner Bros my husband became ill and my life took a detour into caretaking; miribile dictu, he recovered, and words can’t express how rejoiced I have been to resume novel writing, and this year bring The Bride of Northanger “home” to the JASNA conference on Northanger Abbey in Williamsburg!  It was the very place of all that I had most longed to be, signing my pretty book for so many friends old and new, and also was honored to speak on a panel on JASNA’s fabulous and friend-filled forty year history (“The Company of Clever, Well-Informed People,” with Conrad Harper, Juliet McMaster, and Mary Gaither Marshall).

JAIV: You are, of course, the true voice of Mrs. Elton – you have captured her to a T – so why her? Why not Miss Bates, or Mrs. Norris, Mrs. Bennet, or Mary Crawford?

DIANA:  Well, I did do Miss Bates, see above, and played Mrs. Norris in the Montreal play (wearing a Gone With the Wind/Carol Burnett outfit of green baize curtains. Mrs. Bennet had a cat-fight with Lady Catherine in Syrie’s and my “Austen Assizes.” However, Mrs. Elton was first among my gallery of Austen grotesques, for I confess to a peculiar fascination with Jane Austen’s villains (note what happens to General Tilney in The Bride of Northanger). I suppose this is because people are drawn to very different things in Austen – some love the romance, others the style, the period – and my greatest love is for her amazing humor. To this day, after thousands (literally) of re-readings, I still find new humor and beauty in seemingly quiet turns of phrase that I never noticed before.

As for why Mrs. Elton particularly, I think it’s that she was an outsider, a transplant. As a New Yorker who found herself a fish out of water moving to Los Angeles, something in me could relate. Austen had always been my classroom in learning how to behave, but I was initially baffled by the response of Emma and the other Highbury denizens to the horrors of Mrs. Elton. To me, her behavior wasn’t horrible; what do you do when you’re a new bride in an unknown place? Why not invite people to form a musical society? I think it’s understandable that you might try to impress, when feeling new and insecure. But clearly Jane Austen didn’t think so, and I realized I had a lot to learn and had better delve harder into Emma and examine Mrs. Elton more carefully!

JAIV: You have many stories and non-fiction writings on your own blog and on the Jane Austen Variations blog [https://austenvariations.com/]. For your non-fiction, what is your favorite topic to research in the Regency Period? And which do you find the most difficult to achieve authenticity in your own fictional writings? As an example, you obviously have read about the dissolution of the monasteries for The Bride of Northanger.

DIANA:  Hm, well, I don’t research anything in the Regency or any period for its own sake, only as how it relates to whatever story I’m writing. For instance, in a recent serial story I wrote about the Darcys going to Venice and meeting Lord Byron. It became imperative to learn a good deal about the continental travels of those days, and Byron’s Italian life and circumstances. I must say, never was research more fun! (Venice is probably my favorite place on earth, after England). And you are correct, I certainly did read about the dissolution of the monasteries for The Bride of Northanger. Your contributing writer and friend Tony Grant was a great inspiration in this direction, and I absolutely loved his wonderful piece on Netley Abbey. Imagine growing up near there, as he did! (John Constable’s painting of Netley is used on my book’s cover, you’ll notice). For most of my working life I visited England on my annual vacations, amounting to “as many trips as would always be called forty.” Yet I never, to my great regret, have visited Netley Abbey. I know now how it must have inspired Jane Austen, and it is my firm intention to visit it next trip!

Netley Abbey by Moonlight c.1833 John Constable 1776-1837 Purchased 1969 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01147

[JAIV: You can read Tony Grant’s blog post on Netley Abbey via Jane Austen’s World here:  http://general-southerner.blogspot.com/2018/01/netley-abbey-and-gothic.html – I had the privilege of visiting Netley with Tony a few years ago – it was a rainy overcast day, and I could well envision Jane Austen lurking about finding inspiration for her abbey at Northanger!]

DIANA: As for the other part of your question, achieving authenticity in my own fictional writings – as Jane Austen had Elizabeth Bennet say, “I must not decide on my own performance.” However, those thousands of re-readings have installed the novels pretty thoroughly in my head, and I slip into my Austenesque voice rather as Norma Jeane Baker switched on Marilyn in front of the cameras. Not, I hasten to add, with similar effect! I only mean that I make the transition with ease. Whether it really works or not, I have the fond illusion it does, which is necessary.

JAIV: Of the many sequels, continuations, variations, etc, Northanger Abbey has been sadly neglected; P&P takes the lead, but even Mansfield Park has its fair share of an afterlife. Why do you think this is? And, is this the main reason for choosing Northanger Abbey for your latest book?

DIANA:  Northanger Abbey does get rather overlooked, but to me it has such charm, as we follow Catherine on her adventures into the world of Bath, her beguiling romantic encounters with Henry Tilney, and the Gothic amusements and literary commentary Jane Austen lays out for the reader. It may be the Gothic aspects, the parody of “horrid novels” make it seem like a one-trick pony compared with her more mature works, but I do love it and think it contains many pleasures and much wisdom. But its afterlife or lack of it has nothing to do with why I chose it for my latest book. I fell in love with it (rather belatedly) at the time of the last NA-themed JASNA conference (Portland, 2010), and always meant to write a novel about it. I did make a beginning and an outline, but life intervened, and it was only when I realized that the next NA AGM was coming up, I decided I’d better get cracking!  So I did. Perhaps you are starting to get the idea of what role JASNA in general has played in my creative writing life!

JJ Feild as Henry Tilney, 2007

JAIV: Which leads us to: So why Henry Tilney? He has become a favorite of mine, but it took several readings to get past what first appears to boorish, condescending, and manipulative behavior (he is his father’s son after all!) – tell us YOUR history with Henry!

DIANA: Oh, I’ve always loved Henry, he’s pretty much my favorite Austen hero, yes, better even than Mr. Darcy. I love me a witty man, my husband Peter even identifies with him, and with Mr. Bennet too, a bit. I never saw Henry as boorish or manipulative, we’ll have to differ on that, and I think he got over his condescension as his respect for Catherine increased. I did question why such a clever man would fall for a girl who was a bit of a goose as Catherine was in NA, and so I set about to try to understand how this could happen. Jane Austen’s explanation, “his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought,” is not that satisfying. So I explored the father-son dynamic between General Tilney and Henry, writing about it in an essay for Sarah Emsley’s Northanger Abbey blog celebration, “The Ogre of Northanger Abbey” (https://sarahemsley.com/2018/06/11/general-tilney-the-ogre-of-northanger-abbey/). This helped me come to the conclusion that after being bullied by his dictatorial father all his life, the simple and pellucid Catherine was a balm to Henry: she represented the very opposite of his father’s qualities. As he said, “Open, candid, artless, guileless, with affections strong but simple, forming no pretensions, and knowing no disguise,” to which his sister Eleanor answered with a smile, “Such a sister-in-law, Henry, I should delight in.”

JAIV: Can you give a short summary of the plot without giving too much away?

DIANA:  Can try. The story opens the night before Henry and Catherine’s wedding, a year after the ending of Northanger Abbey. During the year of their engagement, they have corresponded, and under Henry’s tutelage Catherine, in growing from 17 to 18, has read some very wise books and has grown more nearly his equal, in fact she bids fair to mature into a remarkably sensible woman. Horrid stories are a thing of the past – until Henry reluctantly announces that there is a curse on the family of Northanger Abbey. If in the original novel Catherine found that a real life villain might do more damage than any Gothic imaginings, here she learns that Gothic horrors are not entirely things of the imagination after all!

JAIV: You DO capture Austen’s difficult language – is that from years of reading and writing about her and does it come easily, flowing from your pen? Or did you have much editing to get it just right?

DIANA: Thank you! Yes, certainly, decades of rereading and imitating Austen’s style and dialogue do give one a facility (as Mrs. Morland says about Catherine being a heedless housekeeper, there’s “Nothing like practice”). The characters start to talk to me and I write it down as they do – but that said, I then do several editing drafts. First draft is usually getting it all down, second draft I reread and see what it needs to make it work, final draft is polish, polish, polish.

HM Brock, NA, 1898

JAIV: Your epigraph is from Hamlet:

I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word
Would harrow up they soul.”

This is a perfect introduction to your tale – it sounds like Henry teasing Catherine on the way to the Abbey which prompts her fantastical imaginings – but this is funny in NA, and foreshadows what happens when Catherine is finally settled at the Abbey. Your choice of this Shakespeare quote lends a serious, sinister, heavy hand take to your story, and indeed, we are immediately told of a long-in-effect Curse on the Tilney family (no more spoilers!) – so why this quote?

DIANA: Where the Gothic was imaginary, and parodied, in Northanger Abbey, it turned out to be much more alarmingly real in my novel!  Catherine enters a dark world, a family with a dark history, for sure. Her maturing good sense makes her evolve into a true heroine, and her love and happy marriage with Henry gets them both through the worst of times. However, in spite of my loving Austen’s humor more than nearly any other quality of hers, and obediently trying to imitate it as often and as best I can, The Bride of Northanger is by no means entirely light and funny. Henry and Eleanor did have a truly Gothic childhood, thanks to that ogre father of theirs, and worse things happen because of this than merely Catherine being sent home alone. I have tried to investigate the nature of what really is a family curse, and how it might be dissipated. Heritage is what is handed down for generations – but sometimes an evil cycle needs to be broken.

JAIV: The problem with a Mystery tale is that we don’t want to present too many spoilers in an interview – yet many questions could be asked (your reading public wants to know!) why you deal with certain characters as you do – some get their just desserts we could say (without saying who!) Are you concerned with reactions to this? – it IS a bit shocking! Did you toy with other options for your ending, or was this clear from the get-go as how the story had to end?

DIANA:  Oh, I know who and what you mean! It is a bit shocking, but by then I was well immersed in Gothic literature in which things like that are rife!  And then my son Paul (he is the librarian on Catalina island, and another very funny Henry Tilneyesque man) had his influence, and it is a mischievous one…

Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe

JAIV: You include all the many tropes of the Gothic genre – you give us a REAL Gothic tale!: Fainting and Trembling Heroines, Poisonings and Mysterious Deaths, Scary Creatures in the night, Family Curses, Ghosts and Hauntings, Hidden Subterraneous Passages, Locked Doors, Secret Messages, Long-Locked Chests, Shimmering Candles, Spies and Political Ravings, and the like – but like Ann Radcliffe, all is eventually explained (well almost…). What other Gothic novels and authors have you read to prepare you for this? Have you read any of the Horrid Northanger Novels made famous by Isabella Thorpe?? Do you have a favorite?

DIANA:  A very well put summation, Deb!  Of course, the Horrid novels were exactly what I read for my research. You can’t do a Gothic plot without some familiarity. It’s not my favorite genre, nor really natural to me, but to my surprise I quite enjoyed some of them. Real page-turners, and I actually believe that my own writing benefited from a dose of page-turning, “what will happen next?  My favorite was Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, which just like Henry Tilney, I read “with my hair standing on end the whole time.”

I was also inspired by my good friend Janet Todd’s novel A Man of Genius. It’s an historical novel set in the 18th century, which no one knows better than she, and she uses Ann Radcliffe references brilliantly. My book is dedicated to Janet, friend and companion of many adventures, both real and literary.

JAIV: What do you think Jane Austen would say about your “meddling” with her story? [I do love that Catherine finally gets a proper sheaf of papers from a long-locked chest – so much better than a laundry list!]

DIANA: Well, as Jane Austen did continue talking about her characters to her family after publication, and indulged in a variety of writing discussions with her niece Anna, both playful and helpful, I don’t know that she’d have minded “meddling” 200 years after the fact, but hope she might have been pleased by the degree of admiration! (And thanks, it was fun imagining what those papers might be! Each generation might have told a different story.)

JAIV: One could make a reading list from all the authors you mention Catherine reading under the tutelage of Henry: Homer, Cowper, Crabbe, Scott, Wordsworth, Milton, Johnson, Maria Edgeworth, Darwin, Locke, etc! You have made her a wise woman and certainly an equal to Henry – has it bothered you that many readers take from NA that Henry will continue in their married life to tease and belittle Catherine for her innocence and lack of education?

DIANA: I don’t think I realized that some readers see it that way. Since he’s going to live with her for a long lifetime, is quite a bit older and more educated than she is, and is a man of good will, would it not be likelier that he would try to educate her than spend a lifetime belittling her? That’s the regrettable way Mr. Bennet dealt with his wife, but even at 17 Catherine is a far more sensible woman than Mrs. Bennet, with a great deal more potential!

JAIV:  What would you most like your readers to take away from your Northanger story?

DIANA: Just to enjoy it, I hope; and perhaps reread Northanger Abbey, and think about Jane Austen!

JAIV: Why do you think that Jane Austen continues to be the “Darling” of academia as well as popular culture?

DIANA: Well, she is a genius, but at the same time a wholly accessible genius. You can read her and analyze her forever, but also enjoy her forever. She appeals to high minded analytical critics who find endless qualities in her to debate and speculate on, but she can also be thoroughly relished for a thumping good love story. She’s got it all. When I had read her works a few times over I looked around to see who could be the next fabulous author at whose feet I could worship and from whose mind and style I could learn for the rest of my life. There wasn’t one.

JAIV: Do you have a favorite Austen movie? Which do you think got it most right? Most wrong?

DIANA: No, I would by no means suspend any pleasure of others (as Mr. Darcy said) but I don’t watch the movies.  Saw a few, but they kind of disturbed my own readings of Austen, so I just left it there.

JAIV: What is your writing process? Your best advice to aspiring writers?

DIANA: My writing process is so narrow and specialized (as I said in the AGM talk, “not six inches on ivory but two inches on foolscap”), I would not advise aspiring writers of anything. Could I say, “Spend the rest of your life reading Jane Austen and write pastiche about her?” Not really. Perhaps I might say, “Find something you really feel passionately about and write about it.” That might do.

JAIV: What are the five most important books in your Austen library?

DIANA: The Letters, that’s what I refer to most. Haven’t really consulted any others in years.

JAIV: I hate to point out mistakes that I find in reading – how one covers all the bases in their research I don’t know, but I have to comment on two:

– I know you are a committed Cat Person, so I understand that you may have not been paying full attention to Henry’s Dogs: you write: “Oh! How the little terrier puppies are grown!” (p 16) when Catherine arrives at Woodson after her marriage: but in NA when Catherine visits Henry’s parsonage for the first time, she finds the “friends of his solitude, a large Newfoundland puppy and two or three terriers.” I forgive you this slip because of the Cat Thing…but if there is to be a  sequel or the like, I’d like to see a Newfoundland in the plot somewhere!

Camilla, by Frances Burney, 5 vols. (abebooks)

– You write that Henry is reading Frances Burney’s Camilla to Catherine and her sister Sarah, and he comments that John Thorpe “would [not] have patience for three volumes entire.” (p 152). While most books during Austen’s time were published in 3-volumes, Camilla, like Burney’s Cecilia, were published in five volumes. I hate to quibble, but alas! the eyes of a bookseller had that jump off the page – please forgive me! (and someone else is bound to point it out…you will now be prepared for an answer!)

DIANA:  Well, I don’t know that my Dog Mistake is all that bad – after all, there are terriers in NA, and (putting on a dark Gothic tone) who knows what became of the Newfoundland puppy? As for Camilla being in five volumes instead of three, I have perfect faith that no reader but yourself will know this fact, but as you say, if anyone does, I will be prepared! (Grin)

JAIV: The cover of The Bride of Northanger is wonderful, perfect (it looks like Felicity Jones of 2008 Northanger fame!) – this is I believe a real portrait but it is not credited anywhere. Can you tell us about it?

Corisande de Gramont, Countess of Tankerville – pastel on paper (wikipedia)

DIANA: Now, Deb, that IS a mistake. A real, true error, and I am heartily sorry for it. I should definitely have put an explanation of the cover painting in the book’s acknowledgements. I have written about it in several blogs, but a reader admiring the cover (and many people have been very taken with that painting already!) may not have seen those explanations. In short, the portrait is by Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun [see Diana’s post on the artist here at English Historical Fiction Authors]. I was searching among her paintings for “my” Catherine, and I knew her the minute I saw her. The young lady subject was exactly Catherine’s age, eighteen when the portrait was made in 1800, though she was no naïve English girl. She was a French aristocrat, Corisande de Gramont (1783 – 1865). Corisande was a granddaughter of the Duchesse de Polignac, the favorite of Marie Antoinette, and she married Charles Augustus Bennet (you can’t make this stuff up!), 5th Earl of Tankerville, and settled in England.  I added the painting of Netley Abbey by John Constable to the cover [see above], and it was designed and put together so beautifully by Rebecca Young, my book designer.

JAIV: Did you learn anything new at the JASNA AGM on Northanger Abbey just held in Williamsburg?

DIANA: Oh, yes! Professor Roger E. Moore of Vanderbilt University gave the most astonishing, mind-opening, revelatory plenary talk. “Northanger Before the Tilneys: Austen’s Abbey and the Religious Past” was so good that I promptly bought his book [Jane Austen and the Reformation]. Of course the subject was very in keeping with my novel, with monks and curses, depredations and “real solemn history.” Yet I noted that people who had no previous special interest in the subject were just as enthralled with Professor Moore’s talk as I was! It was one of the highlights of the conference for me – in addition to the excitement of being on that JASNA panel, the glorious fun of the author book signing, and my trip to Jamestown and the James River plantations. It really was a spectacular conference!

[I completely agree Diana – Professor Moore’s talk was riveting!]

JAIV: What’s up next??

DIANA: Doing a sequel to Little Women. It’s called Jo on the March.

JAIV: Sounds terrific (we should ALL be re-reading Little Women – a new movie is coming out on December 25!) – Anything else you want to share with your / my readers?

DIANA: Don’t you think, as Mr. Bennet told Mary, that I have delighted you long enough?

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Thank you Diana! Very much appreciate your insights on your latest book – it is a terrific read, I have to say – I read it TWICE in order to come up with questions – lots to see there the second time around!

DIANA: Thank YOU, Deb!

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About the Author:

Diana Birchall worked for many years at Warner Bros studios as a story analyst, reading novels to see if they would make movies. Reading manuscripts went side by side with a restorative and sanity-preserving life in Jane Austen studies and resulted in her writing Austenesque fiction both as homage and attempted investigation of the secrets of Jane Austen’s style. She is the author of In Defense of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Elton in America, Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, and the new The Bride of Northanger. She has written hundreds of Austenesque short stories and plays, as well as a biography of her novelist grandmother, and has lectured on her books and staged play readings at places as diverse as Hollywood, Brooklyn, Montreal, Chawton House Library, Alaska, and Yale.

You can visit Diana in all these places:

You can follow the blog tour, hosted by Austenprose, October 28 – November 15, 2019 – all the locations are listed here: https://austenprose.com/2019/10/18/the-teamtilney-blog-tour-of-the-bride-of-northanger-begins-on-october-28th/

You can buy The Bride of Northanger here:

c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont

‘The Bride of Northanger’ ~ by Diana Birchall ~ Join the Blog Tour!

Hello there Austen Folk and all Lovers of Northanger Abbey,

Please join in on the Celebration and Blog Tour for Diana Birchall’s new book The Bride of Northanger.

First some information on the book and blog tour, hosted by Austenprose:

The Bride of Northanger, A Jane Austen Variation, by Diana Birchall

  • Tour Dates: October 28 – November 15, 2019
  • Genre: Austenesque, Historical Fiction, Gothic Mystery
  • Publisher: White Soup Press (September 19, 2019)
  • Length: 230 pages
  • Trade paperback ISBN: 978-0981654300
  • eBook ASIN: B07Y2HGSMX
  • Author’s website: https://austenvariations.com/diana-birchall/

What’s it all about? (without giving too much away – it is a mystery after all!)

A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share – that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real…until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied – events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other…

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Blog Tour sites and dates:

The Doyenne of Austenesque fiction, Diana Birchall*, tours the blogosphere October 28 through November 15 to share her latest release, The Bride of Northanger. Thirty popular bloggers specializing in historical and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, excerpts, and book reviews of this acclaimed continuation of Jane Austen’s Gothic parody, Northanger Abbey. Here’s the schedule; I will update the links every day, so check back – and please visit for my interview with Diana on November 6!

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*About the Author:

Diana Birchall worked for many years at Warner Bros studios as a story analyst, reading novels to see if they would make movies. Reading manuscripts went side by side with a restorative and sanity-preserving life in Jane Austen studies and resulted in her writing Austenesque fiction both as homage and attempted investigation of the secrets of Jane Austen’s style. She is the author of In Defense of Mrs. Elton, Mrs. Elton in America, Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, and the new The Bride of Northanger. She has written hundreds of Austenesque short stories and plays, as well as a biography of her novelist grandmother, and has lectured on her books and staged play readings at places as diverse as Hollywood, Brooklyn, Montreal, Chawton House Library, Alaska, and Yale.

Purchase info:

Diana Birchall’s Social Media links:

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Please come back here on November 6th, for my interview with Diana!

c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont, images courtesy of Austenprose

Guest Author Interview ~ Bryan Kozlowski on “The Jane Austen Diet”

Dear Healthy Readers: I welcome today Bryan Kozlowski, author of The Jane Austen Diet: Austen’s Secrets to Food, Health, and Incandescent Happiness – he joins us here to answer a few questions about his book, why he wrote it, how long he’s been a reader of Jane Austen, and when he discovered she had all these things to say about nutrition and health.  Joceline Bury, the book reviewer for Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine calls it “a delectable salmagundy or culinary history, illuminating quotes, dietary science and intriguing recipes – it made this gourmand’s heart sing. Delicious in every way.”          

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 Welcome Bryan!

When did you first start to realize that Austen’s work contained these words of wisdom about wellness?

Very unexpectedly. Looking back, Jane and I had always been in a very superficial relationship. Begging her polite pardon, I never viewed her beyond anything other than a pure romance writer, always good for a giggle over the newest rich gent in the neighborhood, but not exactly influential to everyday life. If anything, Austen was just a bosom buddy I turned to for distraction from modern life, never realizing she held one of its biggest solutions. Yet that all changed rather quickly two years ago. Nearing my 30th birthday and in the midst of a personal wellness quandary (wondering, among other things, whatever happened to the energy levels of my roaring twenties), I delved into the latest health books for answers. That’s when it happened.  Reading the “newest” research on eating, exercise, and holistic living felt very familiar, like literary déjà vu. Hadn’t I come across these exact insights before in Austen’s novels? Hadn’t she said the same thing, espoused nearly identical lifestyle advice, over two-hundred years ago? It all looked amazingly similar to the way her healthiest characters eat, stay fit, and interact with nature. The discovery led me to health maxims in Austen’s writings I never knew existed, which revealed a side to this famous English spinster rarely, if ever, discussed. Here was a woman just as interested in persuading her readers to live a healthier life as she was inspiring them to fall in love. Plainly, Austen wanted to take my relationship with her to the next level. So I took the plunge, deciding to test out her unique health strategies for myself (rather secretly, at first – one doesn’t announce to the world that one is going on the Jane Austen “diet,” does one?) It was a personal guinea-pig project that – shockingly – was not only suitable to the 21st century, the elegance of embracing “health and happiness” like a true Austenite is one that I now heartily announce to anyone in sore need of adding back some civility and sense to their own modern health routine. 

You’re not a health professional. Do you intend for people to actually follow this plan? Is it a serious contribution to the wellness space?

Quite right. It’s something I discuss upfront in the book: that neither am I nor was Austen a doctor (or apothecary, rather!). Austen was, however, one of the most brilliant observers of human nature, and devoted her literary life to finding out what makes people happier and healthier both in mind and body. For this reason, Austen is often considered one of the best “didactic” novelists, meaning she made it her mission to inspire us – no matter the century – to live a better life. And just like she didn’t need to get married herself to understand the nuances of love, she didn’t need a medical degree to accurately grasp what our bodies need to thrive – the evidence is all in her novels. In fact, the health advice scattered throughout her writing continues to be so timeless today because it was based on organic observation, not on shifting fashions or fads. She knew what naturally worked for our bodies and what didn’t, which is why her wellness philosophies find such resounding support from the latest health research. Moreover, it’s important to remember that Austen lived in an age that faced health challenges nearly identical to the ones we grapple with today. The Regency era had its own mini obesity epidemic, movement crises, and trendy starvation diets to contend with. Yet in her own clever way, Austen chose to respond (never bluntly) but with subtle, counterculture clues woven throughout her fiction: clues meant to gently motivate us to better alternatives. And I, for one, am so grateful she did.

What is the best piece of advice gleaned from Austen included in your book?

Austen would probably get a merry kick out of my attempt to answer this, as her health code purposefully defies any attempt at tidy condensing. But if possible to boil down, you could say that it’s built on one refreshing reminder – that “health” is far more holistic than most of us have been conditioned to view it today (that is, as an isolated number on a scale, BMI chart, food plan, fitness strategy, or dress size). As a matter of fact, weight hardly mattered to Jane at all, who progressively considered excessive thinness, not fatness, as a much more serious risk to health. There are corpulent characters in her novels, of course, who could certainly loose a few pounds, but Austen chose to widen the lens and focus instead on what she calls the “complete” “picture of health” throughout her fiction. In short, Austen’s healthiest characters never have just one defining attribute that makes them “lovely, blooming, [and] healthful” but a sweeping range of interconnected lifestyle habits and patterns that keep them effortlessly “in health” from tip to toe: from their relationship to food and exercise, to their interactions with nature, to how they think and feel about their bodies. Your corset size mattered far less to Jane than how you laced up the rest of your life.

 Which of Austen’s heroines lives the healthiest life, and why?

What I love about Austen’s approach to wellness is its firm footing in reality – that is, none of her heroines start their stories as perfect paradigms of health. Everybody has something to learn. Anne Elliot begins Persuasion “faded” and frumpy and Marianne Dashwood certainly has some hard health lessons ahead of her in Sense and Sensibility. But if any heroine could be said to have a head start on the rest, I believe it would be Lizzie Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. If nothing more than the fact that she begins the novel completely comfortable in her own skin. So much so, she instantly laughs off Mr. Darcy’s infamous body-shaming snark (“he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form”). And that alone was incredibly important to Austen, an early promoter of body positivity. Because becoming healthy in Austenworld truly begins in your mind, where the quality of your relationship to food, fitness, and even your reflection in the mirror will greatly depend on how you think about those things. Still incredibly important today, these are the mental “exercises” that set apart the body healthy from the body harmful in Austen’s novels. As Fanny Price insists in Mansfield Park, “that would be exercise only to my body, and I must take care of my mind.”

What is the most surprising/useful habit that those living in Austen’s era abided by for health?

The most surprising aspect of Austen’s wellness program is her insistence that a healthy diet includes far more than just food – that it relies on a daily dose of nature, too. Things like fresh air, sunlight, trees, good clean dirt and sea breezes are practically treated like vitamins in her fiction, routinely prescribed to any character in need of a body reboot. And though I used to (shamefully) think Austen had gone a wee bit too far with her love for nature – note Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice, at one point, prefers “rocks and mountains” to actual men – thanks to new and growing support from modern science, it is now an essential part of my own wellness walk with Jane, and one I cannot live without.

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About the author:

Bryan Kozlowski is a passionate champion of “lit wit” – bringing the wisdom of classic literature into everyday life. From Jane Austen to Charles Dickens to children’s cookbooks, his books celebrate the modern magic of living literarily. His works have appeared in Vogue, the New York Times and the Washington Post. He graduated valedictorian from The Culinary Institute of America in New York, where he fell in love with British food history, and interned at Saveur food magazine before setting off on the writing path.

About the book:

Bryan KozlowskiThe Jane Austen Diet: Austen’s Secrets to Food, Health, and Incandescent Happiness

Turner Publishing, 2019
Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN: 978-1684422128

If you have any questions for Bryan, please comment below.

Thank you Bryan for sharing your new book with us! I am heading out now for my daily walk knowing Jane would heartily approve!

c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen and Astley’s Amphitheatre ~ What She Saw…

Dear Readers: Here is an update to the Astley’s Amphitheatre bit I mentioned in yesterday’s “Pemberley Post” – our esteemed co-regional coordinator for the Vermont region (Hope) was by complete coincidence doing some research in the 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers and found some relevant tidbits to add to our understanding of Astley’s and what Jane Austen might have exactly seen – Hope left a comment on the blog post, but I have put it in here as its own post in order to see some of the newspaper images to best advantage…

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Austen mentions Astley’s in a letter to Cassandra on 23 August 1796:

“Edward and Frank are both gone out to seek their fortunes; the latter is to return soon and help us seek ours. The former we shall never see again. We are to be at Astley’s to-night, which I am glad of.”

And in Emma: He [Robert Martin] delivered these papers to John, at his chambers, and was asked by him to join their party the same evening to Astley’s. They were going to take the two eldest boys to Astley’s… and in the next chapter: Harriet was most happy to give every particular of the evening at Astley’s, and the dinner the next day…

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From Hope:

What a coincidence. I was just looking in an online newspaper database from that period and had noticed some Astley’s news. So, I looked up the dates around Jane’s letter [August 23, 1796, Letter 3]. Astley’s changed their program every Monday (for Tuesday’s performance). If Jane had read the advertisements Tuesday morning for the performance that night she would have seen that the program included:

The West India Heroic Spectacle, Mechanical Fireworks, Hydraulic Devices, a new comic ballad by Mr. Johannot, called “The Nine Musical Taylors, or, A Sure way to get rich (arranged, compiled, written and composed by Mr. Astley, Sen.), Mr. Johannot also singing New Cries of London (also by Mr. Astley, Sen.), a Pantomimical Dance (composed by Mr. West) called “New Wheat; or, The Mill’s Agoing, a new dance called The Provincial Sailors, Chemical experiments with Signor Romaldo, Professor of Natural Philosophy, Equestrian activities as a Minuet by two horses, a Hornpipe by another, and a variety of military pantomimes, all concluding with a Grand Pantomime “The Magician of the Alps” with a “most beautiful  and magnificent Aerial Vertical Colonnade and Brilliant Transparent Celestial Temple, the whole of which are in motion.”

– Attendees were adjured to arrive between 5:30 and 6:30 and could, if they so desired, send their servants in at 5:00 to save their seats as long as they had spoken first with Mrs. Connell.

– Tickets cost 4s for Boxes, 2s if space available after 8:00; 2s. For Pit, 1s as available after 8:00; and 1s. for the Gallery, 6d after 8:00.
– Jane may have also compared her reaction to the show with some “reviews” touting the fine entertainment to be had at Astley’s, or even have learned that on the same day she went, the traveling version of the show, led by “Young Astley” was playing in Manchester to great acclaim, Manchester being filled with troops preparing for a review two days hence.

1) Morning Chronicle (London, England), Friday, August 19, 1796; Issue 8380. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.


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A similar notice appeared in:

2) Morning Post and Fashionable World (London, England), Friday, August 19, 1796; Issue 7625. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

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3) Another can be found in Times (London, England), Friday, August 19, 1796; Issue 3666. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

4) St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post (London, England), August 20, 1796 – August 23, 1796; Issue 6033. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.


Note that this one announces some changes to the program, including the intriguing notice that: “Ballad Singer, Mr. JOHANNOT, who will sing the NEW CRIES of LONDON; written and composed by Mr. Astley, Sen.”

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5) Those changes were also duly noted in:

Whitehall Evening Post (1770) (London, England), August 20, 1796 – August 23, 1796; Issue 7168. (2949 words). 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

In slightly abbreviated form in:

Times (London, England), Monday, August 22, 1796; Issue 3668. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

6) On the morning that Austen mentions they will be going to Astley’s, they could have found the latest version with the above changes at:

– Daily Advertiser (London, England), Tuesday, August 23, 1796; Issue 21131. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
– Oracle and Public Advertiser (London, England), Tuesday, August 23, 1796; Issue 19 407. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
– Star (London, England), Tuesday, August 23, 1796; Issue 2504. (2372 words). 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

Throughout the year reviewers made sure to mention the fact that Astley changed the program every week, and to praise the results. Here are some examples.

7) True Briton (1793) (London, England), Saturday, August 20, 1796; Issue 1140. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

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8) Star (London, England), Tuesday, August 23, 1796; Issue 2504. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

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9) True Briton (1793) (London, England), Tuesday, August 23, 1796; Issue 1142. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

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10) And this one, referring to the end of that week’s program:

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11) Meanwhile, from Manchester, we learn that:
Star (London, England), Saturday, August 27, 1796; Issue 2508. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

The same “letter” also appears in:
Star (London, England), Saturday, August 27, 1796; Issue 2508. (1080 words). 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

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Thank you Hope for all this information – certainly proof that Astley’s was as great a source of entertainment as it was of journalistic interest!

17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers is housed at the British Library and is available through Gale Cengage on a subscription basis – your library might have access.

c2019, Jane Austen in Vermont

The Pemberley Post, No. 11 (Mar 11-24, 2019) ~ Jane Austen and So Much More!

Good Morning Readers: Two weeks worth today – had another post to do last week – so here is an array of items from Hogarth, the Ladies of Llangollen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mr. Carson, book exhibits, birding, Carrie Chapman Catt, Astley’s Amphitheatre, the uses of the Bugle, and a few items about Jane Austen…

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We know Jane Austen knew her Hogarth, so we should know about him too:

“Gin, Syphilis, Lunacy” – The Sir John Soane Museum will be exhibiting a series of Hogarth’s works: https://www.soane.org/whats-on/exhibitions/hogarth-place-and-progress

The Tête à Tête, 1743, the second in the series called Marriage A-la Mode by William Hogarth.

Hogarth: Place and Progress (Oct 9, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020) will unite all of Hogarth’s surviving painted series for the first time, along with his engraved series. The Museum’s own Rake’s Progress and An Election will be joined by Marriage A-la-Mode from the National Gallery, the Four Times of Day from the National Trust and a private collection, as well as the three surviving paintings of The Happy Marriage from Tate and the Royal Cornwall Museum. The exhibition will also include engraved series lent by Andrew Edmunds prints such as The Four Stages of Cruelty, Industry and Idleness and Gin Lane and Beer Street.

– You can read about the exhibit here: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/mar/02/hogarth-paintings-united-new-show-gin-syphilis-lunacy

– And more Hogarth at the Morgan Library starting May 24 thru September 22, 2019: Hogarth: Cruelty and Humorhttps://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/hogarth

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[Creamer with an image of the Ladies of Llangollen] and Ladies of Llangollen figurine, pottery, 1800s] 

“500 Years of Women’s Work: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection” is on exhibit at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University through June 15, 2019. It then moves to the Grolier Club in NYC. The collection includes all manner of books, art works, decorative arts, ephemera, lots on slavery, women suffragettes – even offers a look at Virginia Woolf’s writing desk.

Here is the online version, filled with many images: https://exhibits2.library.duke.edu/exhibits/show/baskin/introduction

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Read about the Letters Live shows, a celebrity-filled reading of literary correspondence that has taken the world by storm: http://letterslive.com/

Think Benedict Cumberbatch, who is now a producer of the show, reading your favorite author’s letters – the next will be in London’s Victoria and Albert Hall on October 3, 2019.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/mar/13/benedict-cumberbatch-power-of-letters-thom-yorke-noel-fielding-letters-live

And a YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WFD38j2F5A

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Jim Carter, our favorite Butler (a.k.a. Mr. Carson) has received the OBE: so well-deserved!

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-6808157/Downton-Abbey-actor-Jim-Carter-receives-OBE.html

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Napoleon’s library and walking stick and how both changed the history of Sotheby’s Auction House: https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/how-napoleons-walking-stick-started-sothebys-as-we-know-it

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Beginning March 22 through June 14, 2019 at the Library at the University of Otago (Dunedin, NZ) – just hop on down! – Special Collections will be exhibiting “For the Love of Books: Collectors and Collections” – a very selective overview of all the types of materials within their Special Collections. It highlights the type of books amassed by collectors such as Willi Fels, Esmond de Beer, Charles Brasch, and the Rev. William Arderne Shoults, as well as those discrete collections such as the Scientific Expedition Reports, and the Pulp Fiction Collection. I’ll post more when the exhibition goes live this week… You can follow them on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/otagospecialcollections/

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I have a good number of friends who are Birders – so this is for you! (even my friend Sara who hates games of any kind will be converted with this one…) – a board game called “Wingspan” https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/birding-meets-gaming-unconventional-new-board-game-180971685

To play “Wingspan,” up to five players step into the shoes of ornithologists, bird watchers and collectors. Balancing bird cards, food tokens and multi-colored miniature egg pieces, competitors build avian networks by acquiring and deploying resources related to a specific species card. Take the roseate spoonbill, for instance: As Roberts observes, the species carries a value of six points. Placed in its native wetland habitat (rather than grassland or forest), the spoonbill can lay two point-generating eggs. Settling down comes at a cost, however, with players forced to cover a food requirement of one invertebrate, one seed and one fish. A special power conferred by the card is the chance to keep one of two extra bonus cards drawn from the deck.

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As we are still in Women’s History Month, see this Library of Congress now digitized collection of the papers of Carrie Chapman Catt:

https://www.loc.gov/collections/carrie-chapman-catt-papers/about-this-collection/

“The papers of suffragist, political strategist, and pacifist Carrie Love Chapman Catt (1859-1947) span the years 1848-1950, with the bulk of the material dating from 1890 to 1920. The collection consists of approximately 9,500 items (11,851 images), most of which were digitized from 18 microfilm reels. Included are diaries, correspondence, speeches and articles, subject files, and miscellaneous items, including photographs and printed matter. The collection reflects Catt’s steadfast dedication to two major ideals–the rights of women, particularly the right to vote, and world peace.”

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Astley’s Amphitheatre:

Philip Astley – NFCA

Austen mentions Astley’s in a letter to Cassandra in August 1796:

“Edward and Frank are both gone out to seek their fortunes; the latter is to return soon and help us seek ours. The former we shall never see again. We are to be at Astley’s to-night, which I am glad of.”

And in Emma: He [Robert Martin] delivered these papers to John, at his chambers, and was asked by him to join their party the same evening to Astley’s. They were going to take the two eldest boys to Astley’s… and in the next chapter: Harriet was most happy to give every particular of the evening at Astley’s, and the dinner the next day…

You can read more about Astley’s and the founder Philip Astley at the National Fairgrounds and Circus Archives here: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/nfca/researchandarticles/philipastley

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Those of you love Georgette Heyer (and everyone should…), here’s an essay on Thieves’ Cant: https://daily.jstor.org/why-did-thieves-cant-carry-an-unshakeable-allure/ – Heyer was an expert at it, often putting it in the mouths of her want-to-be-so-cool young gentlemen. The Caveat of Cursetors: https://archive.org/details/acaveatorwarnin00harmgoog/page/n6

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Communicating during the Civil War via the Bugle: https://blogs.loc.gov/teachers/2019/03/primary-sources-for-musical-learning-exploring-the-triad-through-the-civil-war-bugle/?loclr=eatlcb

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Always one of my favorite things to read – the OED’s new list of words: https://public.oed.com/updates/new-words-list-march-2019/

-And an OED blog post about them: https://public.oed.com/blog/new-words-in-the-oed-march-2019/

-Some of my favorites this time around: anti-suffragism (only added now???); bampot; puggle; Weegie; and a word Austen would have used: sprunting (sounds awful but it’s not…)

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Literary Hub has published a list of 80 famous writers and their age for their first and last works – this gives hope to many of you out there who still have a Novel inside them awaiting pen to paper…: https://lithub.com/when-80-famous-writers-published-their-first-and-last-books/

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We hope Britain can figure their very own political mess (we have a big enough one of our own…) – but here is a “relaxing” take on the whole debacle:

– all really sad but a good laugh at the same time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqwEa6I1lwI

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And to take your minds off the ongoing world messes, why not settle in and watch all of these FORTY British period dramas coming in 2019: http://britishperioddramas.com/lists/best-new-british-tv-period-drama-series-2019

I thought Belgravia (the book was a good read – I expect the mini-series to be even better… what’s not to like in a “tale of secrets and scandal set in 1840s Lonon”?!)

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The new Emma film is discussed at Willow & Thatch: https://www.willowandthatch.com/emma-taylor-joy-movie-adaptation-news/

No matter who plays Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn has the honors this time around – he played William Dobbin in the latest Vanity Fair, the long-suffering Amelia-does-not-love-me sad-sack) – it is a darn shame that Richard Armitage never did so – he would have been perfect, IMHO… but I love Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse – he’ll be the perfect weather-obsessed, self-absorbed hypochondriac ….

Richard Armitage in “North & South”

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And more on Austen movies by Graham Daseler here at the Los Angeles Review of Books – a very spot-on take on all the adaptations and which is the best (Persuasion 1995 – I agree whole-heartedly) and worst (Mansfield Park 1983) – though I don’t agree with his nasty bit about Clueless – he gives high marks to Olivier as Darcy, etc… – you can read it yourself here: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/jane-austen-on-film/

Persuasion 1995

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Happy surfing all … let me know what you find this week!

C2019 Jane Austen in Vermont