Better Late than Never

Long over due are many comments on VARIOUS Austen (or Austen-related) topics. I have been so lazy in completing my online thoughts on the Austen Symposium in Lennoxville, Quebec (March!), and when at lunch with Janeite MKay, and she asked about the play, I had the thought: Well, better late than NEVER! So thoughts on that, and the last talk will come — I promise!

A little closer in time are two JASNA meetings. Our own JASNA-Vermont chapter hosted HOPE GREENBERG in Montpelier on June 7th; and Montreal/Quebec City’s chapter hosted a ‘Donwell Abbey’ strawberry picking at Elaine Bander’s Montreal home.

Before I forget – since Donwell Abbey reminds me – David from Montpelier, who attended our meeting on the 7th (he is a JASNA member! Yeah, David!!), spoke about reading P.D. James. This brought up James’ JAS (Jane Austen Society; in Britain) lecture a decade-plus ago. I just happened to have a copy of that the year’s “Report” (as JAS’s journal is called). So in digging it out for David, I re-read it myself. She brings up some points (since she treats Emma as a detective novel) about ‘clues’ in the novel that is unique and thought-provoking. But for me the more startling ideas were thoughts fired by her comments on Mr Knightley! James painted a picture of an exceptionally strong man, one who not the namby-pamby many name him to be. Makes me want to pull the novel out again — and soon!

HopeGreenberg_orange-regencyHope’s illustrated lecture on Fashion was one of the most comprehensive I have ever had the priviledge to listen to. The amazing amount of pictures – drawn from paintings, clothing (who knew Burlington’s Fleming Museum had so much in their ‘attics’!!), period drawings, etc. – as well as the lovely gowns Hope had on display (including the one she wore!), all brought to our capacity audience, visually and virtually, the fashion in Austen’s era. Thank you, Hope.

One JASNA-Vermont couple, Jim and Carol, had this to say about the presentation: Sunday was delightful …We enjoyed the presentation, especially once the sound was turned up a bit [Hope was microphoned]. I thought the visuals were very effective and useful for someone who is not at all versed in the subtleties of Regency fashion. Indeed, I have been most impressed with the intellectual content and professionalism of all three presentation we have attended. We look forward to our next meeting!”

Thanks, Jim! Great to hear such words of encouragement.

David wrote succinctly: “Thank you for hosting such a nice event…It was the largest attendance I have yet seen at a lecture, although it was only my third.”

We do have a growing and attentive audience in the Montpelier region! ‘Thanks,’ to everyone who attended Sunday.

And David shared his opinion that to bring Austen elsewhere in the state would greatly increase our presence; he writes about having some thing in St. Johnsbury — someday.

For the Montreal JASNA meeting, I went in order to meet their guest speaker, Jan Fergus. Jan’s book on 18th century publishing in Britain utilized the 1730-40 ledger (held at the Bodleian) belonging to Robert Gosling — Mary Gosling’s great-grandfather (my diarist; see, my research blog). Jan decried the sloppiness of Norton’s recent Austen publications; she ‘would proof them for free’, she exclaimed, as she showed the handwritten notes in the rear cover of her copy. Her lecture was a preview of her AGM lecture – on Brothers and Sisters in Austen’s novels, of course (Jan centered Sunday’s talk on Jane and Elizabeth Bennet).

The food was plentiful – and the strawberries sweet and delicious! Elaine has a lovely home, and I’m sure everyone was grateful for the invitation to visit her perfumed garden (peonies!). The weather held off just enough to make the day quite pleasant.

Two of the Montreal members are off to England, Elaine Bander herself; and Peter Sabor gives a paper at the Chawton Conference. Someday I hope it’s me that is able to hop a plane and have people anticipate some talk I’m about to give…

Which reminds me again, and I will close with this thought, of my lunch with MKay. We got to discussing – what else! – P&P films (1980, 1995 and 2005), as well as Lost in Austen. And that brought around a discussion of Darcy and Mr Collins. Between this lunch and Jan Fergus’s talk, I am convinced more than ever that 1995 (and, by extension, the Lost in Austen series) got poor Mr Collins ‘wrong’; that Charlotte was never a martyr to her marriage (a match made in heaven? perhaps not; but NOT a match made in hell either…); and that there is more to the Darcy-Collins pairing than people are willing to admit (MY paper proposal for Chawton; not accepted, of course.)

Time’s a tickin’ and Sunday morning’s winding down; so I will get off my soap box and get back to my book – a fascinating look at Virigina Woolf’s servants: Mrs Woolf and the Servants, by Alison Light. A ‘souvenir’ from my Montreal trip…

Still haven’t heard if my registration for the AGM puts me in among the 550 members going to Philadelphia… I see the numbers, as of 6/19, now stand at 503.

And JASNA’s website announces the inclusion of Persuasions vol. 3 – published in 1981. We must applaud JASNA’s dedication (and those who put these journals online for all) in making these invaluable resources available, and for free!

Bishop’s PRIDE

Two Saturdays ago (March 14th, to be exact) I ventured up to Bishop’s University (Lennoxville, Quebec) for a Pride & Prejudice Weekend – a symposium, thanks to English department professor Claire Grogan; a delicious ‘Jane Austen’s Cream Tea’ at Uplands; a Pride & Prejudice play, adapted by drama professor George Rideout; and an Austen-era Sunday Service in the university’s beautiful chapel. Sure the footlights have dimmed, the curtain has dropped, and the weekend’s events have faded into memory – but readers should know what they missed; and why they should keep an eye out for a production of this well-thought-out new play.

Saturday afternoon’s symposium featured three speakers; a full-hall (a good 70 people) had gathered to hear them.

Prof. Peter Sabor
McGill University, Montreal
“Portraying Jane Austen: How Anonymous became a Celebrity”. 

Illustrated by images, Dr. Sabor brought the audience along Austen’s circuitous route to celebrity – beginning with the original “BY A LADY” title page of Sense and Sensibility and showing near the end a publicity photo that made everyone chuckle: Jane Austen Hollywood-ized, complete with cell phone (the giant, 1980s version), conducting business while lounging on a poolside chaise.

In between these humble beginnings and the 20th-century hype lay a lot of Austen territory to be explored. Austen, of course, sold the copyright to Pride & Prejudice – her most popular novel – for ₤110. In 1813, the three volumes sold for 18 shilling (“about $2 Canadian today”).

Austen’s name has been located on a few subscription lists (Burney’s Camilla; the 1808 sermons of the Rev. Thomas Jefferson). Dr. Sabor explained that it was costly to purchase books by subscription. Such lists, however, can be invaluable to the researcher (I have located many Goslings and Smiths on subscription lists; it gives a thrill to realize they knew the author or valued the work enough to purchase a copy – or more than one – before the presses rolled).

The anonymous review (in reality Walter Scott) of Emma highlights Austen’s soon-acknowledged authorship a few years later: Although the title page of Northanger Abbey cited “By the author of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ ‘Mansfield Park,’ &c,” the first volume included brother Henry’s biographical notice – thereby naming in print for the first time exactly who authored all six of these novels. [See also Henry’s updated version in the Bentley edition (1833) of S&S.] Beginning in 1818, we see reviews that mention Austen by name. (In an aside: Emma Smith, the future Mrs James-Edward Austen, was in 1817 already citing her as the author, specifically, of Mansfield Park; though Emma spelled the last name, as many did and often still do, Austin.)

A French translation of Austen’s last completed novel – published under the title La famille Elliot – becomes the first book in which Austen’s name appears as author on a title page. The year is 1821. [For information on the translator, see Ellen Moody.]

When discussion of the known and purported Austen portraits began, the audience was given a truly informative lesson on the pitfalls, as well as hopes and shattered dreams, of claimants to “authentic Janes”. Even the 1804 sketch: Is it a depiction of Jane by her sister Cassandra?? Anna Lefroy (half-sister to James-Edward Austen) inherited it, and to this day it resides within the family. (It was first presented by Chapman in his volume of Letters.)

The illustrations of Austen grow more wild as the publicity picks up – paper dolls, figures made for ‘action,’ plush and bobble-headed dolls, even an Austen Powers ‘superhero’. From recreations to fantasy depictions, Austen’s ‘anonymity’ has certainly turned a complete 360-degrees.

ADDENDUM: for an observation on the so-called ‘wedding ring portrait’ of Jane Austen (which Dr. Sabor called “bizarre”, see SEPARATED AT BIRTH?)


next: Prof. Robert Morrison (Queen’s), “Getting Around Pride & Prejudice: Gothicism, Fairy Tales & the Very World of All Us”

Waiting in the Wings: read insights into the character of Miss Bingley by actress Stephanie Izsak.

from Persuasion to Pride & Prejudice

Our chapter must thank – and congratulate – Prof. Mary Ellen Bertolini (Middlebury College) for a stimulating talk March 1st on “The Grace to Deserve: Weighing Merit in Jane Austen’s Persuasion“. She brought up points that really made us all see aspects of the novel that we might not otherwise have ever contemplated. One new JASNA member, David from Montpelier, put into succinct words this reaction:


“I did find the meeting well worth the drive. Professor Bertolini gave an impassioned, even dramatic lecture, and the insights she brought forth only enhanced my appreciation of Persuasion.”

About JASNA, and our Vermont meetings in general, David said, “I am an instructor in Political Science at the Community College of Vermont, and wish there were a study group for the US Constitution which approached that subject with the same thoughtful ease and depth that your group accomplishes with the works of Jane Austen.  …[C]onsider yourself an excellent resource – even oasis…”

At Sunday’s meeting, we announced a terrific upcoming event: A Pride & Prejudice Weekend at Bishop’s University in the Sherbrooke, Quebec area of Lennoxville. Saturday March 14th will feature:

ppDr. Peter Sabor (McGill), a member of JASNA,  on “Portraying Jane Austen: How Anonymous became a Celebrity

Dr. Robert Morrison (Queen’s), on “Getting Around Pride & Prejudice: Gothicism, Fairy Tales & the Very World of all Us

Dr. Steven Woodward (Bishop’s), on “Austen’s Narrative Voice: Film Adaptations of Pride & Prejudice“.

The symposium, running from 1-4 pm, will be followed by an English Tea with musical accompaniment by students from Bishop’s Music Department.

Then join the Drama Department in the 550-seat Centennial Theatre for its presentation of George Rideout’s new adaptation of Pride & Prejudice (8 pm). [Note: the play itself runs from 12-15 March, all at 8.]

Stay overnight, if you wish, at the university – and join them for Mass on Sunday, March 15 in the campus chapel. Then come to an informal gathering with writer George Rideout and director Gregory Tuck.

Cost (in Canadian dollars): General public: Symposium – $10 and Theater $15 (total for both: $25); students: Symposium $2 and Theater $8 (total for both: $10). Accommodation prices begin at $55. Tickets for both available through the Centennial Theatre box office: (819) 822-9692; campus accommodations through (819) 822-9651.

See their pp_press for full details and contact information. There will be costume prizes (!!) and a P&P quiz for participants to enter.


Some short, little things:

Read (finally! I’ve owned it for months) the first in the news Rhys Bowen series: Her Royal Spyness. It is a cute and quaint 1930s mystery with Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 34th in line to the throne. And one man she meets along the way: Darcy O’Mara. Hmm… wonder where those names came from???

Sobering to think that Abraham Lincoln, whose 200th anniversary of his birth we celebrated on 12 February, was born in the year that Jane Austen moved to Chawton – which is seen as the impetus she required to revise and write anew her six major novels.

A note to JASNA-Vermonters: check out the Members’ Page: we’ve some new contenders for naming our chapter newsletter; The Pemberley Post has a nice ring to it. Add YOUR suggestions!

Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec is offering a Pride and Prejudice Symposium – three speakers on Saturday, March 14; a new P&P play on Saturday night; a reception with the playwright on Sunday. We will post information on the events page soon. If you want to see just the play, it runs from March 11-15. Performances held in the Théâtre Centennial Theatre. See:

Have been thinking about how we might do an online book discussion – any ideas, let us know. With all this Pride & Prejudice in the air, that might be a good novel to begin with.

Two items I forgot! (too many bits of paper…): Looking up something totally different, I found some interesting and I trust useful “clothing” websites: Regency Fashion (which Deb had already found and posted on the sidebar) and at the Met Museum. If you browse around the Met’s site, you will find other centuries and even undergarments.