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

Happy New Year One and All!!

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year, with gratitude to all for your visits, your comments, and your discussions of all things Jane!  ~ Thank you for including Jane Austen in Vermont in your daily blog surfing!  Welcome to 2020!

Today in Jane Austen’s life:  [from the JASNA-Wisconsin “A Year with Jane Austen” calendar, and The Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family, by Deirdre Le Faye, Cambridge, 2006]

December 31st:

  • 1797: Henry Austen marries his cousin Eliza de Feuillide, by special license.

January 1st:

  • 1787: Cousins Edward and Jane Cooper, now aged 17 and 16 respectively, come to stay at Steventon for the New Year holidays.
  • 1792: Ann Martel is baptized at Steventon; entry in register is probably in Jane Austen’s hand.
  • 1795: James Austen buys a mahogany tea-board for Deane.
  • 1799: Jane is at Deane for the christening of James Edward Austen Leigh; she writes the entry in the parish register.
  • 1801: James and Mary Lloyd Austen come to Steventon to dine.
  • 1812: Princess Charlotte of Wales writes to Miss Mercer Elphinstone that she intends to read Sense and Sensibility soon.

[Vintage Postcard:  Gold Medal Art, n.d.]

c2020, Jane Austen in Vermont

Merry Christmas Everyone!

A Very Merry Christmas to everyone! ~

[Image is a vintage postcard from the 1920s]
[Posted by Deb]

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

Jane Austen and the Reformation by Roger E. Moore: Review and Highlights

A must-read review! A must-read book! Professor Moore spoke at the JASNA AGM in Williamsburg, an insightful, eye-opening talk on Jane Austen’s knowledge of the dissolution of the monasteries and how she weaves this into her novels:

via Jane Austen and the Reformation by Roger E. Moore: Review and Highlights

JASNA-Vermont Welcomes JASNA President Liz Philosophos Cooper! ~ Sept 15, 2019, 2-4 pm

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

Liz Philosophos Cooper

[image: Jane Austen’s writing table at the Jane Austen House Museum]

Jane Austen was a working woman and a determined professional writer. This illustrated talk will explore Austen’s involvement in the business of publishing novels during a time of rampant financial instability. The Austen family were active participants in both war and finance and these two sectors intertwined in the story of Jane Austen’s writing and publishing.

Sunday, 15 September 2019, 2-4 pm
Temple Sinai, 500 Swift St., South Burlington
(Corner of Swift and Dorset)

Liz Philosophos Cooper is the President of JASNA. Liz is a second-generation JASNA member who fell in love with Austen’s work as a high school student. A member since 1992, she has actively participated in local JASNA activities, served as JASNA’s Vice-President for Regions from 2013-2018, and was Regional Coordinator of Wisconsin prior to that. A popular speaker, she is a contributing writer to Jane Austen’s Regency World and co-edits the A Year with Jane Austen calendar. Her talk from the Washington DC JASNA Annual General Meeting, “The Apothecary and the Physician: Emma’s Mr. Perry” was published in Persuasions 38.

Liz holds a BA (Communication Arts) from the University of Wisconsin. She worked in marketing before taking time off to raise four sons. Literature has always been a part of Liz’s life: she began a Village book group in 1986 that is still going strong, and a Junior Great Books reading program at the local elementary school. She has been an active volunteer in the community, including serving as President of the Village of Shorewood Hills Foundation for many years.

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

For more information: JASNAVTregion@gmail.com 
Please visit our blog at: http://JaneAustenInVermont.blog

Hope to see you there!

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Upcoming meeting December 8, Annual Birthday Tea: “What did she say? – Just what she ought…”: Proposals in Jane Austen with Hope Greenberg & Deb Barnum (and film clips!). Plus, dancing with Val Medve and the Burlington Country Dancers, and a Full English Tea at the Essex Resort and Spa. Click here for the Dec Tea 2019-Reservation form-NEW: Deadline for registering and payment is September 20, 2019.


c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont

Guest Post by Tony Grant: Virginia Woolf Made a Reference to Jane Austen

Dear Janeites and Other Readers:  I welcome today Tony Grant. He has just read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and asked if I would post his review. Tony for a time wrote a blog on Virginia Woolf called “The Novels of Virginia Woolf” – he is hoping to do more on there now that he is re-inspired! There are endless resources out there on Woolf (see below for a few links), but here Tony is giving his personal view of what he learned in reading A Room of One’s Own, and how it relates to Jane Austen.

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“Virginia Woolf Made a Reference to Jane Austen,”
by Tony Grant.

A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN by Virginia Woolf was first published in 1929. Woolf was invited in 1928 to give a talk to the female undergraduates at Girton College, Cambridge on the theme of women and fiction. She came up with the title for her talk as, A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN. The premise of her argument was that women needed a room of their own and time to write, provided by an independent income. Virginia Woolf suggested £500 a year.

Coincidently that was the same amount that an Aunt, who died in India, left Virginia Woolf in her will, allowing her to be independent of her husband. She was allowed time to think and write without the constraints of the straight jacket of wife, mother, and organizer of a great man’s home. She could afford a room of her own in which to write undisturbed. She argued that women writers in history had been far and few between because of the restrictions a patriarchal society put on them, a society that actively discouraged, insulted, and humiliated women’s abilities. Men thought that women were not capable of writing great fiction or write intelligently on any subject.

She references Aphra Behn, a playwright, poet and translator who lived in the 17th century, as the first woman writer to make money from writing. She goes on to explain that later in the 18th and 19th centuries, Jane Austen, The Brontës and George Elliot began to show what brilliant writers women can be, even if hidden behind anonymity or male pseudonyms. These few, early, great women writers were however, limited in their scope by their circumstances. Virginia Woolf’s hope is that a “Shakespeare’s Sister,” will emerge one day.

We are introduced to Mary Beton, her aunt who left Virginia the £500 per year inheritance and provided the means for her to become a writer; Mary Seton, a wife and mother who is constrained by her circumstances and has no chance of becoming a writer; Mary Carmichael, an author who does not write particularly well – her sentence structures are not those of Jane Austen, from whom she should have learned, but nonetheless begins to write about women in an extraordinary way from a woman’s perspective and begins to portray the subtleties of womanhood uninfluenced by a patriarchal society. These three characters represent three aspects of the lives of women.

Virginia Woolf’s bedroom at Monk’s House

Virginia Woolf argues that intellectual freedom depends upon the possession of material things (a room of one’s own and £500 per year), a good education and well-connected families. She thinks the education the poor receive will not raise them to equality with the upper levels of society. She decries that they will have no chance of their voice being heard. Women’s lives and the poor in society are a downtrodden second class group.

Nowadays there is a sort of worship and fan cult associated with Jane Austen. Virginia Woolf would be bemused and not understand this I think. Austen is a great writer, especially in exploring the relationships between men and women which is acutely highlighted in her writing because of the patriarchy of the 18th and 19th centuries.

But because of the constraints placed on by the male members of her family, no “room of her own,” and no independent income, Austen’s world was a very narrow world of drawing rooms. There was not enough global experience of women writers and women in other aspects of society, equal to that of men’s for Austen to build on. She was and is impressive for what she achieved, but she had her limitations. Austen was timid and protective about her writing. She didn’t experience life outside of a strict set of patriarchal boundaries. It does seem extraordinary nowadays there is so much fuss over her.

The aim for women writers, in the words of Virginia Woolf, is to become “Shakespeare’s Sister.” It must be said that Shakespeare did not have a sister as far as we know. What Virginia Woolf means is that in her view Shakespeare was the greatest male writer. He had the perfect balance of the “male-female” brain, creative and fertile with ideas derived from a wide experience of the world, male histories, male experiences and male writing through the centuries. If Shakespeare’s Sister had been able to become the female version of her brother, employing the “female male” brain alongside a wealth of women’s experiences in writing and society, we would have a female writer of equal brilliance and scope.

Virginia Woolf’s presentation to the Girton Undergraduates is nothing if not meant to encourage them all to become writers, not just of fiction but scientific treatises, histories, biographies, poetry, and more besides, because as Woolf states “books talk to books,” and with a rich history of women’s writing to draw on this “Shakespeare’s Sister” can finally emerge.

Jane Austen was a step along the way to the emergence of this “Shakespeare’s Sister.” Mary Carmichael, perhaps a pseudonym for Virginia Woolf herself, represents another important step along the way. They are only steps.

“Be yourself” is a slogan Virginia Woolf leaves her young female audience with. She describes what women need to do to become writers and become themselves: “They need to build their ideas and thoughts on those of other women.” She points out how near impossible it is to achieve that without an immense struggle and everyone doing their bit. Even ninety years later, Virginia Woolf’s treatise has a freshness about it.

Virginia Woolf’s writing shed, Monk’s House

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Thank you Tony for sharing your thoughts on Woolf and Austen! You can visit Tony’s regular blog “London Calling” here: http://general-southerner.blogspot.com/

Would love to hear your thoughts on A Room of One’s Own – do you think Woolf’s ideas remain relevant today? Do you agree that there was a dearth of women’s writing because of the patriarchal society and its subjugation of women? Since Woolf’s time there has been an ongoing effort to re-discover the early women writers that have been long forgotten, also a result of that subjugation, and many of these Woolf would have known nothing about. [You can visit the Library at Chawton House to read about many of these early authors: https://chawtonhouse.org/ – and especially the biographies and online novels].

Woolf references Austen in more than just A Room of One’s Own – she refers to Austen in many of her writings, and wrote several full-length essays – here are two.

  1. “Jane Austen” in The Common Reader (1925): http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0300031h.html#C11
  2. Woolf’s review of R. W. Chapman’s 1923 edition of Austen’s novels at The New Republic (1924): https://newrepublic.com/article/115922/virginia-woolf-jane-austen

For some commentary on Woolf’s opinion of Austen, see:

  1. This essay in Persuasions 12 (1990) by Judith Lee on Woolf reading Austen: http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/printed/number12/lee.htm
  2. Another essay in Persuasions On-Line 29.1 (2008) by Emily Auerbach, “The Geese vs. the “Niminy Piminy Spinster”: Virginia Woolf Defends Jane Austen”: http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol29no1/auerbach.html

I could go on… – there’s a veritable goldmine of information on Woolf and Austen out there!

Further reading:

[Images from Tony Grant]

c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont

JASNA-Vermont Meeting! 9 June 2019, 2 – 4 pm

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

Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer

“Jane Austen and Autistic Spectrum Disorders:
         Re-examining some of her characters’ challenges with conversation,
empathy and social interaction from a 21st century perspective”
 

Sunday, 9 June 2019, 2-4 pm 

Fletcher Free Library, Community Room*
235 College St, Burlington VT

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With a degree in speech language pathology from McGill University, Phyllis Fergusson Bottomer has had a long career working with children and adults with communication challenges. A longtime reader of Jane Austen, she has used her professional knowledge to view some of Austen’s most puzzling characters through this lens of social and communication impairment. Her book So Odd a Mixture: Along the Autistic Spectrum in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (2007) brought this topic to the fore, and she has travelled the world over to give talks at various Austen society groups and conferences. Active in JASNA as a Board member, Chair of the JASNA Grants Committee, and many years as Regional Coordinator for the Vancouver Region, Phyllis also (along with her husband) has become enamored of English Country Dance and they travel as “dance gypsies” to balls and week-long dance camps all over the continent (and why she is here in Vermont!)

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

For more information:   JASNAVTregion [at] gmail [dot] com 
Please visit our blog at: http://JaneAustenInVermont.blog 

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Hope you can join us!

* If there is no available parking at the Library or on surrounding streets, please note that parking is free on Sunday in the parking garage on Cherry St, a short walk to the Library.

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Upcoming 2019 meetings: 

Aug 4: Field trip to the DAR John Strong Mansion, Addison, VT
Sept 15: JASNA President Liz Philosophos Cooper on “Jane Austen, Working Woman”
Dec 8: Annual Birthday Tea: “What did she say? – Just what she ought…” ~ Proposals in Jane Austen” with Hope Greenberg & Deb Barnum + Dancing with Val Medve and the Burlington Country Dancers
c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont