Museum Musings: Victorian Fashion at UVM’s Fleming Museum ~ “The Impossible Ideal”

It is really rather churlish of me to post about an exhibit that is no longer there – give you a sample of something you can’t anywhere find the full feast – but so I shall do because the exhibit closed right after I went and then the holidays intervened. But with the permission of the Collections Manager at the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont, I shall show you several of the fashions that were on display at their recent “The Impossible Ideal: Victorian Fashion and Femininity” which ran from September 21 – December 4, 2018.

All the fashions are part of the Fleming’s collection and not usually on display. The exhibition of clothing and accessories, along with excerpts from popular American women’s magazines (Godey’s Lady’s Book and Peterson’s Magazine), explores “how fashion embodied the many contradictions of Victorian women’s lives, and, eventually, the growing call for more diverse definitions of women’s roles and identities.”

It is not a large exhibition, but each gown or corset has its own story: the fabric and accessory details, the history of the wearer, and how it reflected the times in Victorian Vermont. We see the changes during this “Victorian era’s ‘cult of domesticity’ and the idea that women’s place was in the home and not in the public sphere,” to later in the century, “when sleeker skirts, broader shoulders, lighter fabrics, and suit styles gave women greater freedom of movement reflecting increasing autonomy.” [Quoted text from the Fleming Newsletter, Fall 2018].

It is interesting to see the Victorian shift from the Regency era’s flowing and revealing dresses and wonder how women ever let that happen!

 

I will show you here some of my favorites: I’d like to hear which is your favorite from this small sample…

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Wrapper, c1850:
printed floral cotton with silk taffeta trim and embroidered buttons; a loosely-fitted at-home dress usually worn at breakfast

Have you always wondered why the Victorians had such a penchant for plaid? See below for some further reading on the subject…

White Wedding Dress, 1857:
off-white damasked silk taffeta with gold silk-fringe. Tradition has it that the trend to wear white for weddings began with
Queen Victoria’s wedding in 1840
– but in reality, white was only used by the wealthiest of brides.
*

Ball Gown, 1860:
cream moiré silk taffeta with floral damask and trimmings in satin and lace

*

*Wedding Skirt (1865) and Afternoon Bodice (altered early 1870s):
yellow and green striped silk taffeta. This is a prime example of how even the wealthiest of women would have adapted their clothes to reflect fashion crazes or bodily changes.

*

Princess Cut Dress, c1870s:
purple silk taffeta with silk organza trim. The cuirass bodice, named for the chest piece on medieval armor was the latest fashion craze. And by the late 1850s, synthetic chemical dyes began to replace vegetable-based dyes, allowing for brighter, longer-lasting colors – and not entirely safe, as some of the dyes contained arsenic!

*

Opera or “Fancy Dress” Gown, 1875:
aubergine silk velvet, satin brocade bobbin lace, glass beads and tortoise-shell buttons,
and absolutely stunning in real life! (hard not to touch…)
*

Blue dress worn at UVM graduation in 1878:
silk taffeta with mother-of-pearl buttons

The University of Vermont began accepting women in 1871and in 1875 was the first American University of admit women into the honor society Phi Beta Kappa. This dress was worn by Ellen Miller Johnson (1856-1938) of Burlington Vermont – she majored in Classical Courses and graduated with the fourth co-educational class in 1878, one of three women in a class of seventeen.
*

Two-Piece Traveling Wedding Dress, 1885:
garnet silk satin with dark purple velvet and white bobbin lace, and I confess this to be my favorite – who can resist garnet and purple!


*

Two-Piece Suit-Style Dress, 1895:
black and red textured silk with white bobbin lace. The beginnings of a more masculine-mode of dress
*

Riding Habit, c1900:
brown wool broadcloth with black silk satin

 

And we cannot forget about the all-important unmentionables:

with a Brattleboro, VT advertisement from Brasnahan & Sullivan:

Which obviously gave the publisher this idea for a Persuasion cover (having literally nothing to do with the story but it’s worth a chuckle…)

And a few hats and shoes to finish off this exhibition:

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All photos c2018 Deborah Barnum; with my thanks to Margaret Tamulonis, Manager of Collections and Exhibitions at the Fleming Museum, for permission to publish these images. If you have any interest in knowing more about a particular dress and who wore it, please ask me in a comment.

Select further reading:

c2019, Jane Austen in Vermont

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maria Sibylla Merian -JSTOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gainsborough – NPG

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

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

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

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

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

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

c2019, Jane Austen in Vermont

For Your Reading Pleasure: JASNA’s “Persuasions On-Line”

Happy New Year One and All! If one of your Resolutions was to read more about Jane Austen, here is a great place to start!

The latest Persuasions On-Line is now available on the JASNA.org website:  http://www.jasna.org/publications/persuasions-online/volume-39-no-1/

Persuasions On-Line Volume 39, No. 1 (Winter 2018)

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2017: KANSAS CITY: PERSUASION: 200 YEARS OF CONSTANCY AND HOPE

  1. How the “Long War” Affected Jane Austen’s Family and Her Novels – Collins Hemingway
  2. “She Had Only Navy-Lists and Newspapers for Her Authority” – Hazel Jones
  3. Sailors in Fiction before Persuasion’s “Gentlemen of the Navy” – Susan Allen Ford
  4. Captain Wentworth and the Duke of Monmouth: Brilliant, Dangerous, and Headstrong – Jocelyn Harris
  5. The Grace to Deserve: Weighing Merit in Jane Austen’s Persuasion – Mary Ellen Bertolini
  6. A Tale of Two Captains: Whose Heart Is Worth Having? – Theresa Kenney
  7. Ivory and Canvas: Naval Miniature Portraiture in Jane Austen’s Persuasion – Moriah Webster
  8. “A State of Alteration”: Stylistic Contrasts in the Musgroves’ Parlor – Kristen Miller Zohn
  9. Revisiting Lake Louise 1993 – Juliet McMaster

MISCELLANY

  1. Three Pamphlets on the Leigh-Perrot Trial: Why Austen Sent Susan to Crosby – Margie Burns
  2. Where Jane Austen Sat: The “Austin” Box at Edmund Kean’s Shylock, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, March 5, 1814 – David Worrall
  3. Nonsense Elements in Jane Austen’s Juvenilia – Donna R. White
  4. Marianne Dashwood’s Repentance, Willoughby’s “Repentance,” and The Book of Common Prayer – Brenda S. Cox
  5. The Probable Location of Donwell Abbey in Jane Austen’s Emma – Kenneth Smith
  6. To be “esteemed quite worthy”: Fortunes, Futures, and Economic Language in Persuasion – Maria Frawley, Kaitlyn Nigro, and Gwendolyn Umbach
  7. “Even Miss Bates Has Mind”: A Cognitive Historicist Reading of Emma’s Miss Bates – Kathleen R. Steele
  8. Jane, Bingley, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: Or, the Other Couple in Pride and Prejudice – Jenny Rebecca Rytting
  9. Jane Austen in the Nursing Classroom: A Tool to Expand Psychiatric Assessment Skills – Tawny Burgess
  10. Pride and Prejudice in Black and White: First and Last Impressions (1938–1967) – Reinier Wels
  11. Pride and Prejudice in Black and White: De vier dochters Bennet (1961–1962) – Reinier Wels
  12. Lost in Austen: A Postmodern Reanimation of Pride and Prejudice – Wim Tigges
  13. Jane Austen Bibliography, 2017 – Deborah Barnum

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The Table of Contents of Persuasions 39 (2017) is now online as well (alas! the essays are not – reason enough to become a JASNA member…): http://www.jasna.org/publications/persuasions/no-39/

Papers from the AGM 2O17: HUNTINGTON BEACH: JANE AUSTEN IN PARADISE: INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY

  1. Women of Genius: Jane Austen, Germaine de Staël, and the Nineteenth-Century Heroine – Gillian Dow (13-30)
  2. Godmersham Park Library: Jane Austen’s Paradise Regained – Peter Sabor (31-44)
  3. The Child Is Mother to the Novelist: From the Juvenilia to the Novels – Juliet McMaster (45-56 )
  4. Dirty Girls, Dirty Books, and the Breakdown of Boundaries in Jane Austen’s Fiction – Kathy Justice Gentile (57-69)
  5. “I Cannot Get Out”: The Self-Imposed Afterlife of Maria Bertram – Leta Sundet (70-77)
  6. Sanditon at 200: Intimations of a New Consumerist Society – Sara Dustin (78-87)
  7. Modernist Jane: Austen’s Reception by Writers of the Twenties and Thirties – Lisa Tyler (88-99)
  8. In and Out of the Foxholes: Talking of Jane Austen During and After World War II – Annette M. LeClair (100-111)
  9. Angela Thirkell and “Miss Austen” – Sara Bowen (112-125)
  10. After Jane Austen – Devoney Looser (126-146)
  11. JASNA and the Academy: The Anxiety of Affiliation – Elaine Bander (147-162)
  12. Becoming Catherine Morland: A Cautionary Tale of Manuscripts in the Archive – Emily C. Friedman (163-173)

MISCELLANY

  1. Jane Austen and Catharine Macaulay – Karen Green (177-183)
  2. A Third Publisher’s Advertisement for Susan Found: Why Didn’t Crosby Publish Jane Austen? – Margie Burns (184-202)
  3. The Watsons: Its Place in Jane Austen’s Development as a Writer – David Hughes (203-212)
  4. Deception with a Graceful Bow: Northanger Abbey’s General Tilney and Dance Semiotics – Sabrina M. Gilchrist (213-221)
  5. Jane Austen and Roman History – Herbert W. Benario (222-225)
  6. “She Heard All Mrs. Elton’s Knight-Errantry on the Subject”: Emma as Chivalric Romance -Tiffany Schubert (226-234)
  7. Mobility, the Outdoors, and Social Position in Persuasion – E. Holly Pike (235-242)
  8. Sanditon and the Pursuit of Health – Michael Biddiss (243-254)

That should keep you all busy for a good while…

c2019 Jane Austen in Vermont; images courtesy of JASNA.org

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear JASNA Member,

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas to you all,
Susannah Fullerton
President of JASA

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

 
Works:

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

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Sign up today – you will be most pleased!

c2018, Jane Austen in Vermont

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday, 243 years ago!  To quote her father in his letter to his sister Mrs. Walter on Dec 17, 1775:

You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassey certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago: however last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy. Your sister thank God is pure well after it, and sends her love to you and my brother… (Austen Papers, 32-3)

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In celebration of Austen’s birthday, we at the North American Friends of Chawton House Library announce the launching of the new website at https://www.nafch.org/. Please visit, read about our endeavors on the behalf of Chawton House, and by all means Donate – what better way to honor Jane Austen on her birthday than to give a little something in support of the “Great House” she visited often:

‘Let me thank you again and again’

Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice (1813)

2018, Jane Austen in Vermont

 

Guest Review: “Madison McTavish and Grandma’s Missing Ring” by Heather Brothers

Dear Readers: Today I welcome Margaret Harrington, one of our JASNA-Vermont members, with her review of Madison McTavish and Grandma’s Missing Ring, a children’s mystery novel by Heather Brothers, also one of our JASNA-Vermont members. Heather had published a delightful Regency era novel in 2013 titled The Introduction of a Gentleman (you can read my interview with Heather here.)

Margaret posted this review of her latest book (published in June 2017) on Goodreads – but thought we should give Heather some press here as well. So thank you Margaret for sharing this review and to Heather, we wish you great success with this latest book! Heather will have copies for sale at our Jane Austen Birthday Tea on December 2, 2018.

As Margaret mentions, we hope that Madison McTavish will be returning for another adventure!

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Madison McTavish and Grandma’s Missing Ring

by

Heather Brothers

Madison McTavish and Grandma’s Missing Ring by Heather Brothers is an engaging novel about a ten year old girl named Madison who lives in rural Vermont. Not only do readers get to see things through Madison’s eyes but we also get involved with her multi-generational extended family’s entanglements.

The relationship between Madison and her solid grandmother is central to the story and author Heather Brothers draws them with realistic description and believable dialogue. Readers are relieved of cliché in this finely crafted book and can be surprised just like in life when you do not know what is going to happen next but you look forward to whatever it may be.

Besides family relationships there are neighbors, friends and even suitors to Madison’s preferred aunt who populate and drive the story. The setting in rural Vermont is exquisitely visual and pungent with smells of baking, maple syrup, cow dung and roasted pumpkin seeds which bring you right into the rustic atmosphere. Most of all there is the convincing dialogue with people of all ages talking with each other.

There is a mystery to be solved and several sub-plots to the story that are written about with an incisive gentleness. This is a story well told.

I hope that Heather Brothers will continue to write about Madison McTavish because her debut story is refreshing and enjoyable to read.

Review by Margaret Harrington – Goodreads

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Synopsis: Madison McTavish has never really stolen anything. She’s never searched an old barn, investigated a mysterious Frenchman or had to be a real detective. Madison’s life has revolved around her grandparent’s farmhouse, baseball with her best friend, Santiago, and spending time with her quirky aunts, uncles and neighbor. She’s a regular, 10-year old Vermonter.

But all this is about to change when Madison’s grandma starts wearing an old ring; a ring Madison ends up stealing and losing. This begins Madison’s search to not only find a thief, help a neighbor and uncover family secrets, but to get herself out of trouble…if she can. [from back cover]

 

About the author: Heather Brothers lives with her husband and two young daughters in Vermont. She works in the student loan industry. She enjoys playing the piano, writing and imaginative play with her daughters. She also is on the Board of JASNA-Vermont and assists with Hospitality and the Austen Boutique. (And her daughter Claire is our official Janeite mascot!)

 

The book is available on Amazon here.

c2018, Jane Austen in Vermont

Guest Post: “Praying with Jane,” by Rachel Dodge ~ And Book Giveaway!

UPDATE: the winner of the book giveaway is “artsresearchnyc” – please email me with your contact info and I will send the book to you right away. Congratulations! Thank you all for participating!

Good Morning all! – I am re-blogging this post by Rachel Dodge today as part of the Blog Tour for her book Praying with Jane – and now to include a book giveaway (there is also a book giveaway from Jane Austen’s World – Vic is hosting the blog tour – but I am also offering a giveaway, courtesy of the publisher Bethany House). Please comment or ask Rachel a question by next Monday, November 12 and you will be entered into the random drawing for a copy (domestic mailing only, sorry to say…) – I will announce the winner on November 14th. It’s a beautiful book and one that should certainly be added to your Jane Austen collection. You can follow along with the blog tour by clicking on the links at the end of this post.

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Gentle Readers: I welcome today Rachel Dodge, who has just published (October 2nd!) her book Praying with Jane: 31 Days through the Prayers of Jane Austen (Bethany House, 2018). I had the pleasure of meeting Rachel at the JASNA AGM last week in Kansas City, MO, where we connected at her Emporium table, and where I purchased her book. In it, Dodge takes us through the three prayers that Jane Austen wrote, offers ten devotions per prayer, and weaves into each chapter pieces from Austen’s life and works. It is lovely and inspirational and edifying all at once, taking us into a very private Jane Austen.

As Dodge herself suggests in her introduction, “take time to settle yourself into a quiet spot with a cup of tea or coffee and your journal. This is your invitation to know Jane better…and the God she loved…”

 

Exploring Jane Austen’s Prayers in Praying with Jane

When an author friend asked me a few years ago if I’d ever thought of writing a book about Jane Austen, it made me smile. After writing and speaking about Austen for almost two decades, the thought of writing a book intrigued me. My friend suggested I write something about Austen’s faith. As soon as she said the words, my heart started beating a little faster. I leaned forward and said, “I’ve always wanted to write a book about her prayers.”

That was the start of an incredible journey to the writing and publication of my upcoming book, Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen (Bethany House, October 2018). As I studied Austen’s prayers, read and reread every article and biography I could find on her faith and prayers, studied the original manuscripts at Mills College, and traveled back to her homes and churches in Steventon and Chawton, a picture of a faith biography formed in my mind. I wanted to honor Austen’s prayers and highlight the spiritual side of her life in a unique way.

As I read Austen’s prayers again and again, turning them over in my mind, listening to the cadence of her words, and reflecting on the meaning behind each line, I realized that simply reading Austen’s prayers in one sitting isn’t enough. Like her novels, Austen’s prayers are full of deep insights; they require a close, thoughtful reading. I began to look at the prayers in smaller chunks, reading them line-by-line. With that format in mind, I divided them into a month’s worth of entries and began work on a 31-day devotional book.

As I examined Austen’s prayers, I looked carefully at the meaning in each line and what writing them might have meant to her. Passages from her novels, her letters, and the Austen family memoirs came alive, and I wove them into each daily entry as illustrations of what the prayers can teach us.

Finally, the last step was to make Austen’s prayers practical and personal. As readers, students, and worshippers, we can either be passive or active. For me, the book couldn’t just be about her writing skill, the form the prayers take, or her use of language. It couldn’t even just be about her faith. It needed to also be about what her prayers can teach us. Thus, toward the end of each day’s entry, I include an area for personal reflection, a key Scripture verse, and a sample prayer. Praying with Jane is written as an exploration of Austen’s prayers and an invitation to join her in praying our own prayers.

Jane Austen’s Prayers

Besides her novels, juvenilia, and minor works, Jane Austen wrote three prayers. Cassandra folded them together and inscribed the words “Prayers Composed by my ever dear Sister Jane” on the outside. They were passed down by her family and kept safe for future generations. The three prayers echo the cadence and language of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the liturgy of the Church of England. Each prayer includes thanksgiving, confession, petition, and intercession. In them, she uses the pronoun “we,” indicating that her prayers were most likely meant to be read aloud in a group setting. They are believed to have been written for evening devotions because they include reflections on the past day.

George Austen

Austen’s father, Reverend George Austen, was a devoted Anglican clergyman, husband, and father. He taught his children to take time for private prayer in the morning and evening, to read devotional literature, and to read (and even memorize) famous sermons. In Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter, Irene Collins writes that Jane Austen “cherished” William Vickers’ Companion to the Altar and “made constant use of the prayers and meditations included in it” (72). The Austen family’s religious life extended far beyond the morning and evening church services they attended on Sundays. They shared in corporate family prayers in the morning and evening, they said their own private prayers when they woke up and went to bed each day, and they prayed as a family before meals and gave thanks afterward.

In the evening, the Austen family enjoyed reading out loud from novels, poetry, sermons, and the Bible. On one Sunday evening when the family was unable to attend church, Jane wrote in a letter, “In the evening we had the Psalms and Lessons, and a sermon at home” (Letters). It’s likely that Jane shared her prayers during her family’s evening devotions.

Austen is thorough in her prayers, as in her life, and covers every part of the human plight with great care. I’ve included a few lines from each of her prayers to illustrate the range of topics she covers. (All of my quotes are from the original manuscripts that I carefully transcribed as faithfully as possible.) Her prayers show deep concern for her family and friends and for others who may need comfort or protection:

Be Gracious to our Necessities, and guard us, and all we love, from Evil this night. May the sick and afflicted, by now, & ever thy care; and heartily do we pray for the safety of all that travel by Land or by Sea, for the comfort & protection of the Orphan & Widow, & that thy pity may be shewn, upon all Captives & Prisoners. (Prayer One)

Her prayers also reveal a spirit of thankfulness. It appears that Austen understood the importance of practicing gratitude in even the minor details of life:

We bless thee for every comfort of our past and present existence, for our health of Body & of Mind & for every other source of happiness which Thou hast bountifully bestowed on us & with which we close this day, imploring their continuance from Thy Fatherly goodness, with a more grateful sense of them, than they have hitherto excited. (Prayer Two)

Furthermore, her prayers point to her desire for a humble spirit and a kind attitude toward others. As her letters and novels attest, she had a fine sense of humor and did not take herself too seriously. She was quick-witted and opinionated, yet she was also quick to admit her own faults:

Incline us Oh God! to think humbly of ourselves, to be severe only in the examination of our own conduct, to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, & to judge of all they say & do with that Charity which we would desire from Men ourselves. (Prayer Three)

Austen’s prayers also reveal a tender reverence in regard to her faith and her family’s spiritual life. Writing Praying with Jane has been an immense privilege. Exploring Jane Austen’s prayer life has enhanced my own spiritual life and brought me great joy. I hope it will do the same for many others.

About Praying with Jane:

In Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen, readers can explore Austen’s prayers in an intimate devotional format as they learn about her personal faith, her Anglican upbringing, and the spiritual truths found in her novels. Each daily entry includes examples from Austen’s own life and novels, as well as key Scripture verses, ideas for personal application, and a sample prayer.

To order your copy of Praying with Jane, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite bookseller. For a limited time, when you order a copy of Praying with Jane, you can visit RachelDodge.com to claim a free digital download of six printable Praying with Jane Prayer Cards. Each prayer card has a quote from Austen’s prayers and space to write your own prayers and praises.


About the author:

Rachel Dodge teaches college English and Jane Austen classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and Jane Austen groups, and is a regular contributor to Jane Austen’s World blog. A true “Janeite” at heart, Rachel enjoys books, bonnets, and ball gowns. She makes her home in Northern California with her husband and two children.

Works Cited

-Austen, Jane. Prayers. “Prayers Composed by my ever dear sister.” Manuscripts (two quarto sheets). The Elinor Raas Heller Rare Book Room, Mills College, Oakland, California.

-_____.  Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye, 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011.

-Collins, Irene. Jane Austen: The Parson’s Daughter. London: Bloomsbury, 1998.

You can visit Rachel:

at her website: https://www.racheldodge.com/
on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/racheldodgebooks/
on twitter: https://twitter.com/racheldodgebks

Stay tuned for an upcoming book giveaway!

Images courtesty of Rachel Dodge; image of the Rev. George Austen from Austenonly.
c2018 Jane Austen in Vermont

Blog Tour Dates:

October 31 – Praying with Jane, My changed Relationship with Jane, Jane Austen’s World, Vic Sanborn

November 1 – Praying With Jane by Rachel Dodge,  So Little Time, So Much to Read!, Candy Morton

November 2 – Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through Prayer (Review and Giveaway)Laura’s Reviews, Laura Gerold

November 3 – Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through Prayer by Rachel Dodge, Burton Book Review, Marie Burton

November 4 – Blog Tour: Praying With Jane: 31 Days Through Prayer by Rachel DodgeBLOGLOVIN‘, Sophia Rose

November 5 – Guest Post: Praying With Jane by Rachel Dodge and Book Giveaway! Jane Austen in Vermont, Deborah Barnum

November 6 – Calico Critic – Book Spotlight and Giveaway: Praying with Jane by Rachel Dodge , Laura Hartness

November 7 – A Bookish Way of Life – Praying with Jane, Nadia Anguiano

November 8 – Diary of an Eccentric – Book Spotlight – Praying with JaneAnna Horner

November 9 – Review of Praying with Jane, Becoming, Nichole Parks, Nichole Parks

November 10 – Praying with Jane: A new devotional based on the prayers of Jane Austen, My Jane Austen Book Club, Maria Grazia

November 11 – Praying with Jane Blog Tour: Interview and Giveaways, My Love for Jane Austen, Sylvia Chan

November 12 – Laughing with Lizzie, Sophie Andrews

November 13 – Book Review – Praying with JaneBrenda Cox

Previous reviews:

Praying with Jane Blog Tour: https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2018/10/20/praying-with-jane-blog-tour/

Praying with Jane, Michelle Ule: https://www.michelleule.com/2018/09/28/jane-austen/

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