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

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

 

JANE & I

A TALE OF AUSTEN ADDICTION

By Susannah Fullerton 

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

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

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

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About the author:

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

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

Links:

c2017 Jane Austen in Vermont

REVIEW: The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

I couldn’t agree more – a delightful story!

AustenBlog

ja-project-coverThis year we commemorate Jane Austen’s death. We certainly do not celebrate it. We feel a sense of unfairness about it, not only for our selfish sake–for being cheated out of, based on the lifespan of her parents and most of her siblings, thirty or forty years’ worth of Jane Austen novels–but naturally for Jane’s own sake. She died just before she would have reached real success–the success enjoyed by her contemporaries such as Burney, Radcliffe, and Edgeworth, all of whom she has utterly eclipsed in the intervening centuries. It is just horribly unfair. Jane gave the world such joy and never really had the opportunity to enjoy real fruits from her labor (by which we mean money. From what we can tell, Austen was never big on the whole adulation thing).

We also have great affection for time-travel stories, but within certain parameters. The method of time travel must…

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

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

The Jane Austen Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we were inside.

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

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

“Shh, don’t stare.”

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

“Shh!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the author

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

About the book 

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

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

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

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

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

c2017 Jane Austen in Vermont

Our Next Meeting! June 4, 2017 with JASNA President Claire Bellanti

You are Cordially Invited to JASNA-Vermont’s June Meeting

with

JASNA President Claire Bellanti* 

“‘You Can Get a Parasol at Whitby’s:’
Circulating Libraries in Jane Austen’s Time”

Sunday, 4 June 2017, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Morgan Room, Aiken Hall,
83 Summit Street Champlain College,
Burlington VT**

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Join us for an illustrated talk about an 18th century social institution that was very important to Jane Austen in her own life and her fiction, the Circulating Library. Claire will present its history and then, with references to Austen’s novels and letters, show how central such libraries were in the reading and sharing of books in Regency England. 

*Claire Bellanti holds an M.A. in History (UNLV) and an M.B.A (UCLA). She is retired from a 35 year career as a library professional at UCLA. She is currently President of the Jane Austen Society of North America, and has served in other capacities on the Board of JASNA SW and the Board of JASNA since 1994. She has written and lectured frequently about the UCLA Sadleir Collection of 19th Century Literature, including the Jane Austen contents and Silver Fork portions of the collection.

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

For more information:   JASNAVTregion@gmail.com / 802-343-2294
Please visit our blog at: http://JaneAustenInVermont.wordpress.com

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

Please Join Us!

c2017 Jane Austen in Vermont

Ride Like an Austen Heroine: Sidesaddle

Dear Gentle Readers: I welcome today a member of our South Carolina Jane Austen Book Club, Carol Lobdell, who, besides being a lover of Jane Austen, is also an accomplished horsewoman. She recently tried riding sidesaddle for the first time and writes here about how it gave her a better understanding of each of Jane Austen’s horse-riding heroines – think Jane Bennet (in the rain), Fanny Price, Mary Crawford, Elinor Dashwood (alas! only in the movie)…and anyone else??

Ride Like an Austen Heroine: Sidesaddle

Elizabeth Bennett and most of Jane Austen’s heroines show no hesitation to stride miles about the countryside in order to visit friends and family. They also travel on horseback, in many ways the most practical and efficient means to get around the neighborhood at the time.

And if they rode, they did it in a sidesaddle.

Movies and programs like “Downton Abbey” make riding in a sidesaddle look effortless. The image of a woman trotting and cantering on a horse through the English countryside – garbed in elaborately embellished jackets, flowing skirts, and flattering feathered hats – is graceful, romantic, and powerful.

But, folks, it ain’t easy! Ginger Rogers, as the old saying goes, did everything Fred Astaire did, except in high heels and backwards. So too, lady riders for centuries did everything the men did, except with one stirrup!

Image: pinterest

Brief History of the Sidesaddle

Women in antiquity usually weren’t riding horses unless they were passengers, perhaps on a pillion (pillow or platform) behind a male rider (who rode astride) or in a horse-drawn cart. Part of the reason was culture – the males did most of the hunting and fighting, and they did quite a bit of that on horseback – and part was practicality – women wore long skirts that were not conducive to riding astride and risked immodesty. Riding astride was also seen as a risk to virginity and childbearing.

However, as the centuries went on and the titled elite and leisure classes grew, many women wanted to ride for sporting and social reasons.

Tradition has it that that Princess Anne of Bohemia rode side-saddle across Europe in 1382 on her way to marry King Richard II. Riding sidesaddle was seen as a way to protect virginity.

Sources say that the earliest functional sidesaddle was a chair-like construction, where the woman sat sideways on the horse with her feet on a footrest. Catherine de Medici is said to have developed a more practical design, placing the rider’s right leg around a pommel (a raised, curved projection or “horn”) at the front of the saddle. Riding this way allowed better control of the horse and enhanced stability, enabling the rider to move beyond the walk, to trot and canter safely. Some early sidesaddles had a U-shaped pommel for the right leg.

A second pommel for the left leg, added in the early 1800s, made “riding aside” even more safe, enabling the rider to gallop and jump, while maintaining modesty and decorum (and virginity). Upper-class ladies rode for pleasure and many “rode to hounds” with their local fox hunts, galloping through the English countryside over ditches, hedges, and fences. (As a rider myself, having fox-hunted in England, I can tell you it’s a challenge even in modern saddles!)

Riding attire evolved along with innovations in the tack. After struggling with daywear for riding, less voluminous “safety skirts” were developed in the late 1800s, evolving into an “apron skirt” which buttoned around the waist, covering the legs. Women donned riding britches under these aprons and that’s still the basic structure of formal sidesaddle attire today.

Diagram showing the position of the legs when riding sidesaddle
[image source – Wikipedia]

Modern Sidesaddles

The saddle and posture of a woman riding sidesaddle back in the day was very much as it is today. The rider first sits astride, with the right hip back to allow the shoulders to fall into line. The right leg is then placed on the front of the saddle (around the upper pommel), with the left leg bent and resting on the saddle (with the thigh under the lower pommel) and the foot in the stirrup.

Below: The right side of a modern sidesaddle. The girth is a standard type that could be used on most saddles. The extra stability strap affixed to the rear of the saddle is unique to a sidesaddle.

Below: The left side of a modern sidesaddle. You can clearly see the two “pommels” for the rider and the single stirrup (looped over the lower pommel).

Women began to ride astride – wearing split skirts or riding britches – in the early 20th Century. Sidesaddle fell out of favor for many years; however, traditionalists and riders looking for variety kept the sidesaddle alive. Today, groups across the country and around the world continue to “ride aside” for fun as well as for sport and competition.

What’s it like to ride like an Austen heroine? I’ve always ridden astride in English saddles, so the basic feel of the saddle was not very different, although it’s a flat saddle seat, not curved like many English saddles. English riding also calls for a straight posture, which is even more important in a sidesaddle to maintain balance. I found the basic posture to be comfortable, much like sitting in a chair with one knee crossed over the other.

Above: The author in a modern sidesaddle, about to take her first trot “aside.”

The biggest difference is that one doesn’t “post” in a sidesaddle (the up-and-down motion riders generally use at the trot) or rise into a half-seat for a jump. No matter what gait the horse is doing – walk, trot, canter or jumping – the sidesaddle rider stays glued to the seat of the saddle. For jumping, the rider bends forward at the hip to follow the motion of the horse, instead of rising into a half-seat as the horse jumps.

The first few minutes in the sidesaddle felt very unbalanced, though, as I’m used both legs hugging the horse and a firm seat on the horse’s back. With only one stirrup, I was very wary about stability and steering. However, I was able to walk in both directions in the sidesaddle pretty quickly, once I got the hang of the balance and kept my weight over on the right hipbone. Trotting took a bit more practice, with the key, again, keeping the balance to the right hipbone, an upright posture and firm seat on the saddle. It did feel odd not to have the right foot in a stirrup. The left foot (in the stirrup) was useful for steering, as always. Without the right stirrup, it was a little more difficult to steer, but happily, I was on an experienced sidesaddle horse for the lesson (Lulu, a lovely mare), so she was able to interpret my body language and instructions pretty well. A sidesaddle rider also uses a crop or whip in the right hand to help make up for the missing right stirrup. The riding was really quite comfortable, I thought. (Next time I give it a try, maybe a short canter!)

There are a number of sidesaddle groups around the USA and the UK. In the US, women don safety aprons and fox hunt as well as compete. Sidesaddle jumping is a standalone sport; only the brave need apply! The current world record for sidesaddle jumping has stood since 1915, when Esther Stace, of Australia, cleared a record 6’6” at the Sydney Royal Show.

In Mexican-style rodeos, the women in California’s Escaramuza Charra drill teams perform complicated patterns at high speed in sidesaddles. They ride aside, or “to mujeriegas,” in a saddle known as an albarda, in quick, complex maneuvers often performed on horses with reining training. Traditional costumes with layers of petticoats under decorated skirts or breeches and jackets are the usual garb. [image from damacharra.com]

I enjoyed my sidesaddle lesson and plan to take a few more. Whether I invest in a saddle and attire remains to be seen, but it’s always fun to try something new in a sport that I love, with the extra fun of riding like an Austen heroine!

For Further Reading:

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Thank you Carol! Anyone out there want to share their own sidesaddle experiences? (and one question: is it side saddle, side-saddle or sidesaddle??)

c2017, Jane Austen in Vermont. Text and photographs (unless otherwise noted) by Carol Lobdell

 

Charlotte Bronte ~ April 21, 1816

charlotte-bronte-image

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

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

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

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

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Main Street, Haworth

Main Street, Haworth

Further Reading: