Calling All Janeites & Crafters

Two “pleas” from the Vermont Chapter of JASNA:

  • A request from a member (or members) of our chapter to serve in the capacity of Refreshments Coordinator for the September 27th meeting here in Burlington. Lynne, who has served in that capacity for the past year-plus (thank you Lynne!), is resigning the post.
    Please contact Kelly and Deb.

lizzy not for sale

  • A request to crafters in and around the State of Vermont who may be interested in selling items at an Austen Boutique at the 6 December meetings. We would request that a small portion of your sales proceeds benefit the JASNA-Vermont chapter. English-inspired, Austen-inspired, Regency-inspired… — merchandise project ideas are limitless! Please contact Deb and Kelly with your product ideas, or to request more information.

Tempests Brewing?

Kate in Norfolk today mentioned news hitting the Daily Telegraph: two battles just brewing, one over which place – Chawton or Bath? – can be said to deserve the title of Jane Austen’s ‘true home’; and the other being a tearoom propriator who wants to patent a ‘Jane Austen’ line of teas and coffees. Read the stories here – and check back periodically to see what more is happening, as these stories undoubtedly continue to unfold.

Online Jane Austen “find”

Some of the most difficult books to track down are those published privately by Austen-Leigh family members. These include a lot of publications from Spottiswoode (for background on the firm, see this book). Others are simply seminal Austen offerings. Tonight’s “find” is from Internet Archive: CHAWTON MANOR AND ITS OWNERS. This is one of those books referenced in footnotes, but which you might never otherwise actually see. CHECK IT OUT!!

Today, the Manor is known as Chawton House Library (see the links page for their website); the graves of Cassandra and Mrs Austen are found to the side of St. Nicholas’ Church, just a bit further down the quiet lane that passes the manor house. The photographs in this book may be the only views of the house most of us see; I was in Chawton on a day which was not a Thursday, alas that the only day it was open to the public. (Chawton House Library had also been my work venue of choice, had I gotten JASNA’s IVP nod.) And, written by family, this is a prime source for information about the KNIGHTS who adopted Jane’s brother Edward. The book also includes portraits of Edward which I’ve never seen elsewhere (though the one of his wife Elizabeth is extremely familiar).

A couple other books found at the same site: Personal Aspects of Jane Austen was written by Edward and Emma Austen-Leigh’s daughter, Mary Augusta. Not as ‘valuable’ a book, in my opinion, as her father’s Memoir of Jane Austen, never mind Mary’s own memoir of her father, James-Edward Austen-Leigh, it might find some interest among our Janeites (though not so, according to the handwritten note across the title page!). This other book looks interesting, but I’ve not yet had the chance to read much of it; so tell me whether YOU think it an overlooked early biography, terribly dated, or could never have been very good… It’s from 1920 and is divided into some thought-provoking sections: The Novelist; The Realist; The Woman.

And if it weren’t so late (at the tone the time will be three a.m. BONG!), I’d read a Jane Austen’s Regency World article on Miss Austen Regrets or their article on Rejecting Jane (how she might have fared in today’s publishing world); but that has to wait ’til “morning”… So long, farewell, au revoir, auf wiedersehen.

Some thoughts on Cranford

The only thing I’ve ever read about Mrs Gaskell is the involving biography by Jenny Uglow. I’ve never read any of her work, and just wasn’t in the mood for Wives and Daughters when that aired last year. But Cranford won me over last night. Sure some of it is a bit beyond belief (could a cat REALLY swallow that amount of lace???), but the idea of a village with such a force of women – from gossipy to trendsetting – well, what female viewer wouldn’t consider the hours spent watching them hours well-spent indeed.

One reason I got involved in JASNA was that research into diaries (the earliest is 1814) of Mary Gosling brought up the fact that her brother-in-law was Jane’s nephew, James-Edward Austen-Leigh (he married Emma Smith, Mary’s sister-in-law, in 1828). But Mary lived until July 1842 — exactly the period of last night’s episode of Cranford (it began in June 1842 and ended in August 1842). Being able to picture a young Mary (she was born in 1800) in the fashions of Pride and Prejudice or Emma and later in the early-Victorian era fashions of Cranford really gets the brain juices flowing. 25 yards to make a dress! the different materials (and their differing prices…) for bonnets! the excessive darkness – yet still the needlewoman plies her needle! All of these items have to be thought of when one contemplates recreating the life of someone who lived 200 years ago.

Ms. Place IDs the gorgeous village used in filming: ‘the British Heritage village of Laycock’. I must say this village adds tremendously to the atmosphere of this production.

And the scenes really place you in the 1840s. In the Jenkyns household, the wide hearth of the era and the image of Mary reading by the light of the fire. The unrelenting darkness of interiors; the pools of light; the lonely lady of the manor; the lovelorn dutiful daughter/sister; the poor women who produced child after child; the servants who looked after the wealthier inhabitants; and you gotta love those poor (sedan) chairmen!

Mary Gosling lived in an era of change: from the horse-and-carriage to the age of steam trains; from war abroad to unrest at home. And Cranford well illustrates what life at such times of change could mean to people of a small village. I really feel for the still-in-the-18th-century patroness. Again, the strength of this program is in its wealth of women portrayed. And very hard not to think of Cassandra and Jane (had Jane lived to an older age) when watching the two Misses Jenkyns. When Miss Deborah died, my heart went out to Miss Matilda. I have no sister and cannot imagine what it must be like to live for one another, only to end up being the sister death left behind.

As an Austen-side note: nice to see Austen ‘veterans’ Greg Wise and Julia Sawalha. And it’s always a pleasure to see Julia MacKenzie and Barbara Flynn. Francesca Annis, Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins (a well-deserved BAFTA win) have long been favorites.

Ms. Place – who has read the book! – says the script remains kind of close to the original. All I can say about the production is, notice what a leisurely pace will do for a storyline; ditto some excellent casting (is there even one weak link in this production?). High standards DO pay off. I will say, I wish the “background” music was a little less intrusive at times. Overall, though, a lovingly-crafted adaptation.

BTW: 1905 saw the publication of CRANFORD: A PLAY by Marguerite Marington; see And don’t forget to check out Deb’s post on Gaskell, below. I clicked on the Cranford (novel) link Deb provided and read the first chapter; interesting to now have images in the mind, thanks to the teleplay, of the lives of Miss Jenkyns, Miss Jessie Brown, Captain Brown, et al. Reading this one chapter really makes plain how a series of scenarios can be crafted into a well-rounded script with some fidelity to the original.

UPDATE: In part 2, scenes were filmed at TRING PARK (in Hertfordshire), which has an Austen connection: it was the bridal home of Edward and Emma Austen, and their first few children were born there. When Edward’s aunt died and he assumed the Austen-Leigh name, he moved his family into his aunt’s former home, Scarlets. BUT: before Scarlets, before Speen, they lived with Emma’s mother Mrs Smith at Tring, the former home of her uncle, Sir Drummond Smith, Bart. Therefore, where Judi Dench trod, so in the past did Mary Gosling (Lady Smith), Emma & Edward Austen, his mother Mrs James Austen, and his sister Caroline. Small world sometimes…

Fashion help?

I am studying a letter written 1 February 1794, the subject of which, at this juncture, is the latest London fashions:

 …your Friend Mrs. Gosling has been obliged to put on the Cravat, but all Bows are left off, for the Ladies either a very full Muslin plain Stock with a larger Pudding, or the long cravats like your old one twisted round the neck & fastened behind: this moment Maria has made her appearance with the plain Stock but no pudding, she sais these are very comfortable no ends to treble [sic: trouble] her, we are really much entertained with her new appearance…

I am without my subscription to the OED at present, so my question is: What was a ‘pudding’? Any helpful hint would be appreciated! Pictures (illustrations) would be welcome.

RED-The Reading Experience Database 1450-1945

The Reading Experience Database 1450-1945 is a project the Open University (UK) launched in 1996, with the aim of accumulating data about the reading experience of British subjects.  It is a searchable database of all citations in printed materials (i.e. letters, memoirs, diaries, journals, reading notebooks, autobiographies, court records, annotations, marginalia, etc.) linking an individual to their reading.  An example is Susan Ferrier, who commented in a letter on reading Jane Austen’s Emma in 1816, and there are many citations to Jane Austen’s own reading.  This material is already prompting the need for a reassessment of the opinions about 18th and 19th century reading practices.  For instance, the belief that 19th-century women read nothing but novels is disputed by the findings that women of this period read an extremely wide range of genres, including philosophy, mathematics and the Classics.  You can find the link at: (the link is also in our ‘Literary Resources” list.) And note that RED actively solicits contributions of material for inclusion in the database. 1

[1.  See The Female Spectator, vol.11, no.1, Spring 2007]