It is well past midnight and I should be asleep, for breakfast comes bright and early at 8 am. But – with WiFi in the room I occupy – I just had to log on and chat about this — my third — Jane Austen Weekend at Hyde Park. There are several posts about these Governor’s House Austen weekends, so I will ask you to search for them rather than try to link them for you.
This is our largest group yet (prior weekends were held in January and August), with the book I am covering: Pride and Prejudice. Of course all these active minds engendered MUCH discussion this evening, which makes for a fast ice-breaker. A couple people are lucky — they met last year over Persuasion (at which inn owner Suzanne Boden served as ‘guest lecturer’ for Friday night talks on the British navy; you can join Suzanne for this novel in 2011 [next year the focus is on Sense and Sensibility]) and have come again for a whole new novel and some new experiences. That’s the interesting thing here: this is not the first time I’ve heard people say ‘I made a friend here’.
The weekend opens with my talk (over beverages and dessert), which centers on Georgiana Darcy. We get to discuss Georgiana and her life as we know it (through Austen’s writing), and then extrapolate how a young lady of means might have spent her life by looking at the art work of three ladies.
Our August group seemed to pull a lot of information from one or two pictures of each artist – for we divide into groups to look at samples, then come together again to talk about everyone’s thoughts and ideas. It was interesting, then, in that one group was quite taken with the depiction of children our youngest artist included in her series of pictures; another group noticed the expert use of composition in one or two paintings of our teen artist; and the third group was astonished at the minute detail in depictions of interiors by our third artist.
The group tonight found life as lived at the time more interesting, and critiqued the pictures as artwork much more. They appreciated the ‘story-telling’ of our youngest artist; spotted all the social situations our teen artist had to offer; and thought the interiors were a bit ‘sad’ due to their ‘depopulatedness.’ (One person observed, in the dining room, that the table was set, but there was no one to dine! In August these lived-in but peopleless interiors made me think of the Dennis Sever House; today, tonight, this morning, it makes me think of a Royal Museum I visited in Vienna, where the rooms awaited the arrival of Empress Elisabeth [“Sisi”]). All opinions are valid, and makes clear, from a speaker’s point of view, just how the same pieces of art work strike different people.
I fear I express these thoughts badly – if I do, put it down to tiredness! And much stimulating conversation, before, during and after the talk.
So, content yourselves with ideas of lively discussion; and then talk that turned, as it always does, to books and TV, Austen’s life, England. Suffice it to say, that a pleasant evening was passed.
I write to you sitting atop a high bed (others may use the steps, but, being tall, I don’t bother with them) in the so-called “English Room“, staring between the posts of this four-poster bed at what has to be a portrait of a young Queen Mother. There is a pair of comfortable wing chairs, set to either side of the fireplace. I can imagine cosy evenings with the snow coming down (though do I use my fireplace at home when the snow tumbles down?? nope…). The tall and wide windows look out on the side lawn as well as the back porch, which beckons with its white wicker furniture. Fall is my favorite time of year – and last week’s harvest moon was just a treat to see. What shall we wake up to? In August, it was a hazy and misty dawn – very similar to that photographed at the end of the 2005 P&P, though – alas – no Mr Darcy appears out of the mist… Maybe next time.