The South Carolina Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America and the Bluffton Library present:
March 25, 2023, 2 – 4 pm
Bluffton Library Free and open to the public / Light refreshments served
“Tally-Ho! Horses and Fox-Hunting in Jane Austen’s England”
Jane Austen and her contemporaries were all familiar with the sport of fox hunting, whether they “rode to hounds” themselves or watched the action from the sidelines. The sport was integral to rural English communities and social interactions, and drew participation from all strata of English society. Mounted fox hunting had practical origins — foxes preyed on poultry, sheep, and cattle, so farmers were happy to be rid of them — and evolved over time into a major social and sporting activity. Rich in tradition, the sport continues around the globe, with active hunts in almost every state in the US.
Carol Lobdell, a Bluffton resident, has been an equestrian for more than 25 years and is a fox hunter herself. She has ridden with more than a dozen different hunts, including three in England. She will discuss the origins and development of the sport, its meaning and role in English society in the Regency years, and the sport’s activities today.
Questions? Call the Bluffton Library 843-255-6503.
January 28, 1813: Pride and Prejudice is published! I retreated into the archives to repost this from 2013 which is in itself a repost from 2 years earlier [I am a big fan of recycling…] – it’s all about what Jane Austen had to say about her “own darling Child” – a Darling Child for many of us as well who reread this novel on an annual basis…
Gentle Readers: This year we have just entered upon will be a long and interesting 365 days of celebrating the 1813 publication of Pride and Prejudice ! There are festivals, conferences, blog postings, reading challenges, and already many newspaper and journal articles on this timeless work by Jane Austen. I would like to start off my own celebration of this beloved classic with repeating a post I wrote two years ago, where I had pulled together all the references that Austen makes to this, her “own darling Child,” in her letters. It makes fascinating reading to “hear” her…
The publishing history of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s most popular book, then and now, is an interesting study in the book trade of early 19th century England. First completed in 1797 (and called First Impressions) and rejected by the publisher her father took the manuscript to, Austen reworked her draft over time and submitted it to Thomas Egerton, the publishing house of her Sense & Sensibility, in 1812 (it was published on January 28, 1813). She sold the copyright outright for £110, and did not incur other expenses in its publication, as she did in the three other works published in her lifetime [see links below for more information.] How we would love to know her thoughts on this road to publication! – how we would love to have her letters written while in the process of the writing to give us some idea of her imagination at work – where WAS the model for Pemberley? was Mr. Darcy someone REAL? was Elizabeth Bennet her alter ego? was MR COLLINS drawn from life? – or to have the letters to her brother Henry and his to Egerton – but alas! we have very little, just a few comments scattered among the surviving letters.
I pull this Christmas Eve message from the archives, first posted on December 24, 2010
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Festive Holidays!!
It is a rare date that Austen mentions in her works, but one of them is today, December 24: Christmas Eve, “(for it was a very great event that Mr. Woodhouse should dine out, on the 24th of December)” [Emma Vol. I, Ch. xiii]
While we usually associate Mr. Woodhouse with often curmudgeonly weather-obsessed behavior, here he is most eager to get all wrapped up and head over to Randalls:
Mr. Woodhouse had so completely made up his mind to the visit, that in spite of the increasing coldness, he seemed to have no idea of shrinking from it, and set forward at last most punctually with his eldest daughter in his own carriage, with less apparent consciousness of the weather than either of the others; too full of the wonder of his own going, and the pleasure it was to afford at Randalls to see that it was cold, and too well wrapt up to feel it. [E, Vol. I, Ch. xiii]
So it is not dear fussy Mr. Woodhouse who is Scrooge this Christmas Eve, but Austen is adept at creating one, and long before Dickens ever did:
‘A man,” said he, ‘must have a very good opinion of himself when he asks people to leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as this, for the sake of coming to see him. He must think himself a most agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing. It is the greatest absurdity — Actually snowing at this moment! The folly of not allowing people to be comfortable at home, and the folly of people’s not staying comfortably at home when they can! If we were obliged to go out such an evening as this, by any call of duty or business, what a hardship we should deem it; — and here are we, probably with rather thinner clothing than usual, setting forward voluntarily, without excuse, in defiance of the voice of nature, which tells man, in every thing given to his view or his feelings, to stay at home himself, and keep all under shelter that he can; — here are we setting forward to spend five dull hours in another man’s house, with nothing to say or to hear that was not said and heard yesterday, and may not be said and heard again to-morrow. Going in dismal weather, to return probably in worse; — four horses and four servants taken out for nothing but to convey five idle, shivering creatures into colder rooms and worse company than they might have had at home.” [E, Vol. I, Ch. xiii]
Well, “Bah! Humbug!” to you too, John Knightley! – he is our Scrooge this Christmas Eve [indeed, I believe that Isabella has married her father!] and his ill humor continues throughout the evening – ending of course with his gloomy and overblown report of the worsening weather that sets off three full pages of discussion on the risks of setting out, on the possibility of being snowed-in, on the cold, on the danger to the horses and the servants – “‘What is to be done, my dear Emma? – what is to be done?’ was Mr. Woodhouse’s first exclamation…” and it all is finally “settled in a few brief sentences” by Mr. Knightley and Emma, certainly foreshadowing their success as a companionable couple.
And this leads to one of Austen’s most comic scenes – the proposal of Mr. Elton, Emma trapped in the carriage alone with him believing that “he had been drinking too much of Mr. Weston’s good wine, and felt sure that he would want to be talking nonsense…” – which of course he does…
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, with much snow on the ground (but not enough to trouble your carriage), some song and wine (but not enough to induce unwanted and overbearing offers of love and marriage), and the pleasure of good company (with hopefully no Scrooge-like visitors to whom you must either “comply” or be “quarrelsome” or like Emma, have your “heroism reach only to silence.” )
P.S. – And tonight pull your Emma off the shelf and read through these chapters in volume I [ch, 13-15] for a good chuckle! – this of course before your annual reading of A Christmas Carol.
To quote her father George Austen in a 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)
In celebration of Austen’s birthday, JASNA has published it’s Persuasions On-Line vol. 43, No. 1, which features a selection of the AGM presentations on Sense and Sensibility, the theme of the 2022 JASNA AGM in Victoria, as well as other interesting essays on all things Jane.
This is also a perfect time to donate to JASNA, or certainly to renew your membership – you can find information here: https://jasna.org/join/
It is also a perfect time to donate to Chawton House, via the North American Friends of Chawton House: Please visit the website at https://www.nafch.org/ and read about their endeavors.
Anyone who donates $150 or more will be sent NAFCH’s 3rd annual limited-edition bobblehead “Capability Jane” (while supplies last), though any amount is gratefully received! Our gardening Jane, named after the renowned gardener and landscape designer of Austen’s era, Capability Brown, though we know she was very “capable” in many areas of her life!
The Blog Tour for Godmersham Park: A Novel of the Austen Family by Gill Hornby began on October 24 and runs through November 7, 2022. A work of biographical historical fiction, it is a richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became very close with Jane Austen and her family. In 2020, Hornby published the acclaimed Miss Austen, about Cassandra Austen, and PBS /Masterpiece has recently announced it is to be a mini-series. We can only hope for the same about this newest work. I am hard at work on casting the major roles…who would you choose to play these characters??
Summary and Advance Praise:
On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess to Edward and Elizabeth Austen’s daughter Fanny, but also often expected to supervise the other children as well. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go. Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge—twelve-year-old Fanny Austen—Anne’s arrival is all novelty and excitement.
The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the “upstairs” and “downstairs” members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard.
When members of the Austen family come to visit, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming, and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent, mistress can hardly fail to notice.
Meanwhile Jane’s brother Henry begins to take an unusually strong interest in the lovely young governess. And from then on, Anne’s days at Godmersham Park are numbered.
“This is a deeply imagined and deeply moving novel. Reading it made me happy and weepy in equally copious amounts…I read it straight through without looking up.”— Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Bookclub
Hornby’s skillful mix of fact and fiction captures the complexities of the Austens and their era, and her crisp, nimble prose sparkles throughout. Best of all, Hornby genuinely channels the sentiment of 19th-century English literature. Janeites aren’t the only readers who will relish this smart, tender tale.”— Publishers Weekly, starred review
“…a well-written and delightfully observant novel…an excellent read.”— The Historical Novel Society
Godmersham Park begins:
“At half past six, in the bleak icy evening of 21 January in the year 1804, Anne Sharp arrived on the threshold of Godmersham Park.” [p.3]
Anne Sharp stayed for two years… In the Author’s Note at the end of the novel, Hornby writes of the known details of Sharp’s life after she leaves her post and her continued correspondence with Jane Austen and the occasional but all too rare visit. Nothing is known about Sharp’s life before her taking on her governess post, and this novel gives the reader a fine grounding in how life as a governess in a fine house would have played out – all this based on real contemporary biographies of young women thrust into a working life. Fanny’s daily diary entries gave Hornby the true details of the Edward Austen’s home-life, and she brilliantly weaves all into a more than probable tale of Anne Sharp’s time at Godmersham. It is an endearing and warm-hearted tale, at times a tad melancholy, brightened by the growing and real-life friendship between Austen and Sharp, both creative and spirited women. The sprinkling of literary allusions to Austen and other 19th-century writers makes it all the more delightful.
Without giving anything away, I will only add Austen’s own exclamation about her brother: “Oh! what a Henry” [Ltr. 102, 23 June 1814] – and leave it for you, dear reader, to find out what I mean!
What is known about Sharp is all pieced together from various sources – I’ll work up a bibliography of these for another post, as this book will surely peak your interest to know more about this dear friend of Austen’s. One bit to savor is that Sharp’s own copy of Emma, given to her by Austen through her publisher, was treasured by Sharp throughout her life – it just sold once again at auction for £375,000 [it had sold in 2008 for nearly £200,000 – a fine investment indeed] – this copy will be on display at Chawton House in 2023, thanks to the generosity of the anonymous purchaser. [You can read about this here.]
An Excerpt from Chapter XI [p 81-85]:
‘Miss Sharp!’ Fanny burst into the Godmersham attic. ‘Look!’ She brandished a letter. ‘All that time, I was expecting to hear by the morning post, and it came by the evening.’
They both studied the paper, weighed up its width and its quality, ran their eyes over it to judge the length of what was written upon it. ‘In my mind’s eye, I had seen myself receiving it at breakfast and reading it there, just as Mama does. I mean, like a proper young lady.’ She worried at her lip. ‘But now is just as good, is it not?’
‘I should say it is a fine time for the reading of letters,’ Anne reassured her. ‘A lovely end to the day. And remember, my dear, if this is to be a full correspondence, you can look forward to more in the future . . .’
Fanny breathed out. ‘You are so right. I am beginning to think, Miss Sharp, that you are in the habit of being right on all matters. So, what happens now?’
Anne was becoming a little concerned by her pupil’s over-keen sense of deference. If they went on like this, Fanny would soon be incapable of putting one foot in front of the other without appealing for guidance. ‘I suggest that you read it?’
‘Oh,’ Fanny gave a little laugh. ‘Of course! Shall we do so together?’
‘No, my dear,’ replied Anne, though she was not un- intrigued. ‘This is to you.’
Fortunately, Fanny – who was one of the world’s greatest sharers – chose to read it out loud:
My dear Fanny,
Your letter occasioned such joy among all in your Bath family – but in me, in particular. I cannot imagine what I have done to deserve such an honour – and nor can your superior aunt, my dear sister. When the post came for me, there was a danger that she might drop dead from sheer jealousy, but I quickly revived her with my shrewd observation – Cassandra is harder to spell and consumes too much ink. God bless my short, simple name!
We all marvelled at hearing your Godmersham news, and you have the advantage of me. How can my dull existence compare with the revelation that you have a new governess? It is clear she is a woman of substance for your pen was clear and the contents quite perfect. If you are so kind as to reply to me now, please do us the favour of addressing the following concerns. We all long to know what books you are reading – in particular, which poets? Your grandfather desires that you acquire a sound basis in Shakespeare and, as always – he cannot be helped – issues a plea on behalf of the Classics. Is your Miss S. – among her other perfections – strong in the Classics? If so, then she is truly a paragon.
As you know, your Grandmama has been most unwell and the worry and fear has kept us at home more than is usual. But I am here to report she is now well on the mend, and her spirits returned to their usual height. It cannot be long before we return to the social round. Though I am relieved that the illness is over, I cannot rejoice at being turned out of doors. The streets of Bath are made so dirty by this dreadful wet weather – it keeps one in a perpetual state of inelegance.
We all look forward to hearing from you again, and pray you send our love to all of the Godmersham family.
Your fond Aunt, Jane Austen.
Each expressed their delight in tones of great rapture and agreed it to be one of the greatest – possibly the best – letter yet to be written. Fanny read it twice more, so as to be thoroughly sure, before disappearing down to the library to share it anew. Anne, at last, was able to pick up her own pen, and then Sally came in.
The sullen maid of Anne’s first evening had warmed into a garrulous creature and now, while Anne sat alone working, Sally would work alongside her. Her clear philosophy was that, while the hands toiled at tidying and cleaning, the tongue should not idle.
‘What is it you’re up to there, miss?’ She was sifting through Fanny’s drawers and refolding the inexpertly folded. ‘Another letter, is it? You do write a lot of letters and no mistake.’ She came and looked over Anne’s shoulder. Anne covered her page. ‘Don’t worry about that, miss. All scribbles to me.’
‘You cannot read or write, Sally?’ Anne felt that glorious, prickling anticipation of a new project. ‘Would you like me to teach you? When is your afternoon off? I am sure I could spare a few hours every week.’ She was quite magnificent in her own generosity.
‘Ta, miss, but I’m right as I am.’ Sally went back to her work. ‘My afternoons off are my afternoons off, thanking you very much. I go out on the gad, then, with Becky.’ Anne picked up her pen again, crushed. Suddenly intrigued, she put it back down. ‘You must be most expert gadders to find any gadding to be had in Godmersham, surely?’ The village did not even have a shop, let alone a High Street. Anne had found no amusements beyond solitary walks. How does one even begin to gad in a field? ‘You’d be surprised, miss. There’s some new lads down at the tithe barn.’ Sally gave a little shriek. ‘Ooh, but we do like a laugh with them.’
‘And Mrs Salkeld does not object?’ Anne herself could never be so brave as to incur the wrath of the housekeeper.
Sally shrugged her thin shoulders. ‘If she does, she daren’t say so. We’re still young, miss. Got to enjoy yourself, haven’t you? It’s only a job, after all. If they stopped me, I’d tell them to stick it.’
Anne paused to reflect on their relative positions. She was certainly paid more, but Sally – with her uniform and its upkeep provided – had fewer expenses. Sally enjoyed hours off in the day and the companionship of life in the servants’ hall; Anne belonged neither to staff nor family, was almost always on duty and, when not, entirely alone. It appeared that a maid could make an exhibition of herself abroad and it was tolerated, yet if a governess were to attract even the eye of a gentleman, she would face instant dismissal. The comparison provided food for thought on the question of privilege and the cost of its benefits.
About the Author: Gill Hornby is the author of the novels Miss Austen, The Hive, and All Together Now, as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children.
Today’s post is about Brenda Cox and her just-published Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England. You can follow the other blog posts on this tour here. [See at the end of this post for information on the giveaway.]
A few thoughts: I was honored when Brenda asked me to write a blurb for the cover, and I repeat that here with a few additional thoughts. I would first say that I have read a few works on Austen and religion, all of them enlightening in their own way. We do need to have some inkling of this religious world Austen grew up in, and the religion she practiced, to see that dimension in her writing. I am a born and raised Episcopalian [my parents were Anglican] and much of what Brenda writes in her book was very superficially known to me, at least those parts about the Church hierarchy, prayers and liturgy and hymns. What was enlightening was how Brenda wove all the details of the Church itself, and its spiritual foundations into a fuller understanding of what Jane Austen is actually saying in her novels, in the plots, the characters, and the settings – this book is a compelling read and you won’t look at the novels and the characters in the same way ever again. Just the tables, definitions, and references alone are worth the price of admission.
Fashionable Goodness is a meticulously researched, faultlessly organized, and engaging study of how religion, in all its forms, features in Jane Austen’s world, her life, and her writings.
Starting with Henry Tilney’s famous defense of “the English” in Northanger Abbey, Cox reveals the facts of Jane Austen’s faith, the realities and challenges of practicing religion in the Regency period, and with biographical sketches of the leading religious leaders and analysis of the various denominations of the time, she puts into context the explicit and subtle religious references in Austen’s novels. This Christian world permeates Austen’s writings and a fuller understanding of the Church and its clerical hierarchy and the emphasis on living a moral “good” life will open up a clearer view of Austen’s plots, characters, and underlying themes. You will look at Mr. Collins, the Crawfords and the Dashwoods, the Tilneys, the Wickhams and Willoughbys, all the “good” and the “not so good” people that populate the novels (and especially Fanny Price!) with new and surprising insights. Bravo to Brenda Cox for giving us this very accessible illuminating take on the “fashionable goodness” of Austen’s era.
An Excerpt from the first chapter, beginning as I say above with my favorite Hero, Henry Tilney:
“Jane Austen’s England, A Foreign Country (Foreign to Modern Readers)”
“Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians.”—Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey, ch. 24
How can we understand “the country and the age” in which Jane Austen lived? Her society is poles apart from our modern world, despite some points of similarity. As L. P. Hartley insightfully begins a novel set in 1900 [The Go-Between], “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” The world of Austen’s novels is foreign to us, whether we live in the United States, modern England, or elsewhere. To enter this “foreign country,” the civilization that spawned Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and Emma Woodhouse, we need to learn its language and culture. While we may interpret Austen’s timeless novels according to our own experiences and values, we can enjoy them more deeply as we get to know Austen’s world.
Religious practices and values influenced many aspects of Austen’s culture. For example, in politics, the Church of England was (and is) the national church of England; the Pilgrims and Puritans fled to America to escape its authority. The sovereign was the head of the church, bishops and archbishops were members of the House of Lords, and Parliament made laws regulating worship, the clergy, and churches. From 1810 to 1820 (the Regency), the Prince Regent governed the country because of his father’s illness. Jane Austen disapproved of the Regent’s immoral lifestyle, but when he asked her to dedicate Emma to him, she respectfully complied, since it was her duty as a Christian to obey her country’s leader.
Religious values also guided family relationships. Honoring one’s parents was an important religious duty, given in the Ten Commandments in the Bible and elaborated in the Church of England catechism. In Mansfield Park, Edmund and Fanny are shocked by Mary’s disrespect for her uncle who raised her; Mary is showing poor moral values (ch. 7). Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice carries this to a ridiculous extreme when he delays reconciling with his cousins out of respect for his father’s memory, since his father was at odds with them (ch. 13). Disrespect toward a husband or wife was also considered immoral. In Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby shows his poor character by criticizing his wife, and Elinor rebukes him (ch. 44).
As Laura Mooneyham White points out in Jane Austen’s Anglicanism, the “foundational worldview” of modern Christians, including modern Anglicans, differs radically from the worldview of the Georgian-era Anglican Church. Because of this, we may miss some of the deeper dimensions of Austen’s novels….
To understand the church’s pervasive influence in Austen’s world, we also need to recognize some the issues it was facing. Edmund Bertram and Mary Crawford argue about several: clergy without a calling, clergy who did not live in their parishes, and “fashionable goodness.” Was it enough to follow the fashions of the city and show up at church on Sundays, ignoring religion the rest of the week? Or, as new movements in the church stressed, should people seek a personal relationship with God that affected their hearts and behavior? Even for Mr. Darcy, being “given good principles” – knowing theoretical religious truths – was insufficient to make him a man Elizabeth could respect and marry…
Jane Austen’s religious beliefs, and the beliefs of her society, are often overlooked. She does not talk as openly about religion as today’s Christian writers do, or even as some of her contemporaries did. And yet, as Henry Tilney points out, being “Christian” was part of the English identity. Jane Austen’s personal identity was also Christian, as we shall see in the next chapter. In the rest of the book, we’ll explore the crucial part Christianity played in Austen’s stories and in her world. In Austen’s England, morality came directly from religion….
Author interview: I asked Brenda a few questions about why she wrote this book and how it has affected her reading of Austen:
DEB: You have said you titled the book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, because during Austen’s time, it was fashionable to attend church and pretend to be “good,” but that the immorality of the Prince Regent and others seemed more fashionable, leading the influential William Wilberforce and others to try to reform “manners” [meaning behavior] – Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park explains that “manners” meant behavior, how people acted based on their religious principles. So I would ask you: which of Austen’s novels focuses most on the church and this idea of “manners”?
BRENDA: Mansfield Park, hands down. Edmund and Mary Crawford discuss the importance of the clergy (those responsible for “all that is of the first importance to mankind”). Edmund and Henry Crawford discuss preaching and leading church services. Fanny, physically weak, displays great moral strength in refusing to marry an “unprincipled” (irreligious) man. Also, godly traditional values are contrasted with the immorality of the city. I appreciate Mansfield Park far more than I did before, now that I understand its religious background.
DEB: Your book is packed with information, from how the Church of England is organized, the challenges the church faced during Austen’s time, and the legacy it still holds for us. How did you decide to organize it?
BRENDA: My background is in engineering, and I tried to structure Fashionable Goodness logically. It starts, of course, with Jane Austen and her novels. We look at things like her personal faith, the lives of her clergymen, and worship during her time. Two chapters address how some of the church’s values played out in everyday life, particularly in the areas of marriage and divorce, and in scientific advances.
Part 2 then looks at challenges to Austen’s Church of England. Some of those, like the system of patronage and different levels of clergymen, are addressed in the novels. Others, like the Methodist movement and the place of different economic groups and races in the church, give background. I wove in fascinating stories of men and women leaders of the time.
As I saw how the church was making an impact on the country and the world, I added Part 3. It shows the impact of committed Christians of Austen’s era, ranging from the abolition of the slave trade to the Sunday school movement that educated millions of poor children and adults, breaking cycles of poverty and dependence.
DEB: What spiritual messages do you think Austen was trying to convey through her novels?
BRENDA: Austen always promoted moral behavior. But she didn’t do it by preaching and telling people what to do. Instead, she showed examples, both positive and negative. Readers of Pride and Prejudice, for instance, might learn to avoid judging and ridiculing other people. We might instead want to be more like Jane Bennet, assuming the best of others until the worst is clearly proven. (This was a religious virtue called candour in Austen’s time; posts on my blog explore this and other “faith words.”)
DEB: Which of her novels speaks most strongly to you personally?
BRENDA: Usually my favorite Austen novel, and the one that speaks to me most, is whichever one I have read most recently. Right now that is Sense and Sensibility, which I’ve read repeatedly in the months leading up to the JASNA AGM. It has made me more aware of emotions and their effect on us and other people. We can express our emotions selfishly, as Marianne did, not caring how we make others feel. Or we can recognize them in ourselves, as Elinor did, and choose ways to respond that do not hurt our loved ones. In this, Elinor was doing her Christian “duty,” to love her neighbour as herself. However, I also think Austen put Elinor in a worst-case scenario. Elinor’s promise to Lucy made it impossible for Elinor to tell her family what she felt. In other circumstances she might have shared her pain with her family in healthy ways.
About the Author: Brenda S. Cox has loved Jane Austen since she came across a copy of Emma as a young adult; she went out and bought a whole set of the novels as soon as she finished it! She has spent years researching the church in Austen’s England, visiting English churches and reading hundreds of books and articles, including many written by Austen’s contemporaries. She speaks at Jane Austen Society of North America meetings (including three AGMs) and writes for Persuasions On-Line[JASNA journal) and the websites Jane Austen’s World and Brenda’s own blog Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. You can find bonus material on the book here as well.
Brenda is offering a book giveaway [paperback or ebook] – Please comment below or ask Brenda a question [she will respond here] by Wednesday November 9 and you will be entered into the random drawing for a copy [there are some limitations to worldwide shipping] – I will announce the winner on November 10th. Here are some prompts for commenting, or please ask your own.
1. What is one character trait you think Jane Austen most valued, based on her novels?
2. Who is your favorite clergyman or clergyman’s wife from Austen’s novels? And why?
3. What is one question you have about the church in Austen’s England, or the church and clergy in her novels?
*[N.B.: The giveaway is limited to addresses in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, or Italy for a print copy of the book. The author can only send a giveaway ebook to a US address. (However, both the ebook and paperack are available for sale to customers from any of these countries, and some others that have amazon.)
Head-up everyone! The blog tour for Brenda Cox’s just released Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England begins today. I will be posting more on October 25th along with a giveaway, but here are a few thoughts as to what this book has to offer and how it will enlarge your understanding of Jane Austen’s world:
Jane Austen transports us to a world of elegance and upheaval. The Church of England, at the heart of her life and her world, is key to understanding her stories. Readers may wonder:
Why could Mr. Collins, a rector, afford to marry a poor woman, while Mr. Elton, a vicar, could not?
What conflicting religious duties led Elizabeth Bennet to turn down two marriage proposals?
Why did Mansfield Park’s early readers (unlike most today) love Fanny Price?
What part did people of color, like Miss Lambe of Sanditon, play in English society?
How did Austen’s church impact people’s lives and the world?
Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England answers these questions and many more. It explores:
Austen’s Church of England, as we see it in her novels,
Challenges the church was facing, reflected in her stories, and
Ways the church in Austen’s England transformed England and the world.
Comprehensive, yet affordable and easy to read, Fashionable Goodness will help you see Austen’s beloved novels and characters in richer and deeper ways.
Here is the tour schedule – check back each day for the updated links:
“Finally! Fashionable Goodness is the Jane Austen reference book that’s been missing from the bookshelves of every Austen fan and scholar.” ~ Rachel Dodge, bestselling author of Praying with Jane
“Brenda Cox’s Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is an indispensable guide to all things religious in Jane Austen’s world.” ~ Roger E. Moore, Vanderbilt University, author of Jane Austen and the Reformation
“This scholarly, detailed work is a triumph. Easily read, helpful and accurate, it provides a fascinating panorama of 18th century Anglicanism and the various challenges the Church and wider society faced. Cox’s many insights will enrich readers’ understanding and appreciation of Jane Austen’s novels and her life as a devout Christian.”~ The Revd. Canon Michael Kenning, vice-chairman of the Jane Austen Society (U. K.) and former rector of Steventon
Where to Buy:
Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is now available from Amazon and Jane Austen Books. [For international Amazon, you can to this link.]
When: Saturday, November 5, 2022, 2:00 – 4:00 pm What: Talk on “Gender and the Decorative Arts in Jane Austen’s Novels” with Kristen Miller Zohn* Where: Bluffton Library, 120 Palmetto Way, Bluffton, SC
During the Georgian period, women and men alike had a great interest in architecture, interior design, and fashion, and there was an expectation that the concepts of femininity and masculinity would be reflected in these spheres. This slide lecture will present images of decorative arts, interior design, and clothing to explore how those that are presented in Austen’s novels speak to the roles of women and men in her era.
*Kristen Miller Zohn is the Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Lauren, Mississippi, as well as the Executive Director of the Costume Society of America.
Please RSVP: jasnavermont [at] gmail.com or the Bluffton Library, 843-255-6503
The trailer was a travesty – many people I know said that alone convinced them to not watch this new Persuasion, now streaming on Netflix since last Friday. There have been so many negative reviews, one can only lament all the money spent, all the talent squandered, and settle for visions of Dear Jane doing the proverbial role in her grave…
BUT, I say, give it a chance, watch it with an open mind, pretend you are an Austen newbie and look at it all with not-so-knowledgeable eyes – can you do this and find some redeeming moments that somehow harken to the original story??
I didn’t read any of the reviews before viewing it the other day [on my computer I confess because I am on the road with no Netflix on a bigger screen – though I don’t think the smaller screen affected my liking / disliking the movie…] – I didn’t want to be swayed, though the headlines alone were enough to know how the wind blows – it is FASHIONABLE now to dislike this movie, and so it goes, one after the other of people weighing in on this great mess.
Bottom line is that I neither loved nor hated it, but I fall somewhere in-between, finding that spending a bit of time with Jane Austen, despite the various missteps, is always a fine way to while away an afternoon…
I shall make a list of the pros [a few] and cons [a lot], the best way to approach this rather than a full-on review, because I think most of us will say the exact same thing. I should start by saying that Persuasion has long been my favorite Austen novel – I love the story, the romance of second chances with the pain of Anne suffering through eight years of longing and regret with the subtle hints that Wentworth has suffered likewise. I love Austen’s usual satirical eye on class distinctions, and those not willing to see a changing world of honor and merit. And Austen’s ever-present humor – are there any better characters than Sir Walter Elliot and Mary Musgrove and Austen’s take on the ridiculous snobbery of the lot of them?
A few friends have already shared their very strong feelings about this film – I am reminded of the horror that first accompanied the 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen – PIGS in the kitchen! Mr. Darcy has a mullet [and chest hair!]! Elizabeth Bennet looks too much like Keira Knightley! [i.e. too modern for the early 19th century] – it went on and on…and so we are here once again with complaints that THIS MOVIE IS NOT THE BOOK! But one friend, who is not an Austenhead, found the movie “quite enjoyable,” despite Capt. Wentworth “a little sappy” [can anything work if Wentworth is “sappy”??] – so it comes down to what you know – have you read the book? Have you seen the 1995 film with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds [in my view the most perfect of all the Austen film adaptations]? Do you know your Austen backwards and forwards and can quote her willy-nilly in appropriate conversations? [my favorite: “Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.” (S&S).] Do you get / appreciate the narrative voice that brings that ironic humor to all her writings? And on it goes…
Any adaptation is just one person’s vision of their Jane Austen [well, along with producers, screenwriters, directors, actors, etc.!]– there will never be one size that fits all. Your Captain Wentworth will not be MY Captain Wentworth. But, I’m a firm believer in any Austen film that brings people to the books, and if this 21st century version of Persuasion can do that for a whole new generation, then kudos all around. These new readers will be pleasantly surprised how deep and meaningful the novel is in comparison [or they’ll throw it across the room in disgust at the long wordy sentences and lack of any kissing…]
So, onto my lists: [SPOILERS ABOUND!!]
1. The Narrator: the use of a voiceover or Dakota Johnson speaking directly to the viewer serves to bring Austen’s all-important narrative voice into the tale. So much in the book cannot be conveyed via dialogue, and I understand the screenwriter using this device to solve the problem [the major Con is that too often Anne is saying / doing things that are not in the text at all, and not Anne-like in the least – more on this in the CONS] – but I like this aspect of being able to get inside Anne’s head – this is her story after all…past, present, and future.
2. The Settings: magnificent as expected, Kellynch Hall just lovely, landscape scenery perfection [Sir Walter’s concerns about his “shrubberies” are valid!]; Lyme Regis and Bath locations [not enough of Bath in my view] serve the story well…and I would like to visit the Harville house, the Elliot home in Bath, and the Bath shop once again… [you can view the various locations here: https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/netflix-persuasion-filming-locations-37107090 ]
3. The Fashions: I liked the simplicity of all, especially Anne’s – a complete 180 from the over-the-top costumes on the 2020 Emma. These understated fashions seemed more realistic but likely not as engaging for all the Austen fashionistas out there.
4. The Dialogue: this is mostly a CON as you will see, but I must give applause to those very few lines that were taken directly from the novel [what a novel idea!]
5. The Casting: I applaud the casting without any complaint. Dakota Johnson, seemingly in EVERY scene, is so lovely to look at [more on her HAIR below, a giant quibble]; I liked Cosmos Jarvis as Wentworth [despite my friend’s “sappy” comment], though will say he didn’t seem distant or angry enough; Henry Golding gets high praise for his William Elliot, just not caddish enough in my book; the color-blind casting worked perfectly – thank goodness this is a barrier well-hurdled in many recent productions [Bridgerton for one; Mr. Malcolm’s List as another (not yet seen – I have read the book and hope to not be disappointed!)] – and high praise for Mrs. Russell and Louisa [absolutely lovely!]. Richard E. Grant was perfectly and vainly odious as Sir Walter – I wish he had had more screen time…
6. Some of the scenes:
– Wentworth taking the boys off Anne in the woods [in the parlor in the book, but I won’t quibble] – the point is Wentworth was around and saw Anne in distress and acted.
– the Crofts and their carriage: Wentworth asking for them to take up Anne – a lovely scene, again showing that he is paying attention to Anne – but he doesn’t HELP her into the carriage and he should have!
6. The Soundtrack: The final song by Birdy is terrific [though very popular culture like Johnny Flynn and his “Queen Bee” in the recent Emma] – conveys the story better than the whole movie really – and the rest by Stuart Earl is engaging enough – you can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BvDswoUAtk [I include the lyrics to the Birdy song below]
CONS: [hold on to your hats…]
1. The Language: ok, unless I missed something, this is a movie of the Jane Austen novel Persuasion. I think I counted no more than 10 direct lines from the novel, so much else made up that I thought we were watching some dime-store novel of historical fiction whose author didn’t do their homework and is stuck in 2022 after all – a few examples of many:
– the endless rating of both men and women on the 1-10 scale – really?? I thought that came into being with Dudley Moore’s “10” in 1979. Mrs. Clay, “a 5 in London, a 10 in Bath” [obviously William Elliot certainly thought so]
– Mary Musgrove, down and out with a “bug” deems herself an “empath” – good lord, what can be said, though I did laugh out loud…she was a great whiner, as she is on the page, but I just wanted to slap her…[well, I want to slap Mary in the book too…]
– Anne’s constant talking, to herself, to the wall, to her ever-present rabbit [a rabbit???], to the viewer: I realize the writers wanted to convey Anne’s inner thoughts, her sufferings, her regrets, to give us an Anne who tells it all, like she is in some endless therapy session that just lets her natter on and on – but where is the Anne on the page who suffers in silence, who gradually develops an inner strength and confidence that in the end enables her to speak out loud and clear in the only way she can, to an overhearing Capt. Wentworth… sometimes I just wanted her to shut up… [caveat: there were a few times that I thought the script did a fine job of conveying Anne’s inner life, “her quiet dignity” as she calls it, holding it together in her bathtub…]
– the use of clichés: “abandon all hope”; “hope springs eternal”… the list is endless; Mary as “shockingly self-aware” (says Anne)
– Wentworth telling Anne: “You’d make a great Admiral” – such a ridiculous comment, I have no comment…
– the whole “exes” and “friends” thing – way too modern chat
-Anne summing up William Elliot: 1. ‘He must have an angle” [when did that come into general use??]; 2. “He’s a 10” – a running gag that gets old…
2. The Conversations and Scenes: ok, here is where the movie lost me – there were far too many extreme divergences from the original text [I think it’s a book called Persuasion] – and I wonder who sits around at night and makes this stuff up:
– Anne blurting out at the dinner table that Charles wanted to marry her first… [now in the book, Wentworth learns this from Louisa with Anne overhearing – she is mortified that Wentworth would once again rail against her persuadability” – there is NO reason for Anne to share this with the dinner table – it was embarrassing for all [including the viewer]
– The octopus story: does this have a purpose?? “You’re beginning to grow on me”… I remain completely clueless.
– Louisa turning into a courtship instructor! – then snagging Wentworth for herself after a conversation with Anne – none of this is in the text, other than a subtle sense that Anne wants nothing to do with the captivating Captain…
– Anne and Wentworth meeting on the beach in Lyme for a conversation that is entirely made up – they stumble over words and end up becoming “friends,” both dissatisfied with being unable to express their true feelings – not only is it made up but it is much too early in the story to give this all away – and then Anne takes a dip in the sea, fully clothed no less, floating as she has done before in the bathtub – this is so un-19th-century!
– Mr. and Mrs. Croft are barely in the film – which is too bad, as their presence gives us much to understand about life in the Royal Navy AND what a good marriage looks like [not all that common in Austen!] – the conversation at the dinner table where Sophie tells of sailing with her husband and hating being left behind on land has been relegated to a quick conversation while walking – and too much is missed about the developing friendship between Anne and the Crofts.
3. The Characters; or how adding in some modern-day angst behaviors gives not-to-be-missed clues into each character [like the viewer cannot figure some of this out themselves?]:
– Lady Russell’s sexual adventures on the Continent?? How exciting for Lady R, but I doubt she would actually allude to this with Anne. And Lady R, who early on in the film says she was wrong to persuade Anne to give up the then Lieutenant Wentworth, never really sees that truth in the book – she continues to direct Anne to a better match.
– Anne peeing on a tree – certainly a nod to the Emma of 2020 warming her butt at the fire – but necessary??
– Anne in an almost constant state of intoxication, a wine-bottle always at hand; not to mention the bottle falling on her head – Anne-the-Klutz seems the order of the day: jam on her face just another example [though she is certainly more fun for those Musgrove boys than the sour Mary…]; slurping her drinks at the Dalrymple’s [and then that octopus story]…
– – Where oh where are the senior Musgroves?? I can barely recall their presence, they too important to the tale with their humor, over-the-top household…I miss them.
– In Lyme, the infamous fall – they used different steps than the “Granny” steps – was there a reason for this?? [though various illustrators have used the other steps as well] – I was pleased to see this kept in the film and it actually follows the book!
– Where oh where is Mrs. Smith?? A necessary part of the plot to understand the true colors of William Elliot – here we have him KISSING Mrs. Clay in Bath’s broad daylight, for all to see, and quite content in his film-ending marriage – someone really sat up late to come up with this one… a reformed cad – VERY un-Austen-like [none of her rogues are redeemed, as anyone who has read her novels knows.]
And then, The Letter – a quick conversation that Wentworth overhears, Anne having her last chance to tell him what she feels, and Wentworth leaving hastily written letter for Anne [or anyone else] to see – one is pleased to hear some of the letter verbatim [the best love letter in all of literature! – it deserves a reading!] – but then we have another Olympic Anne, running through the streets of Bath, frantically searching for her Captain – this a nod to the ridiculous Anne in the 2007 Persuasion, Sally Hawkins hysterical back-and-forth sprinting in search of her Captain – but I missed the quiet coming together of Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds in the crazed streets of Bath, their un-Austen-like Kiss rocking the Austen world as completely inappropriate, but delicious nonetheless…
So, final answer?
I think it all lies in Anne’s HAIR: did Ms. Johnson just flat-out refuse to be Regencified?? No way she would succumb to the tightly wound Curly-Cue Curls of Anya Taylor-Joy? Her straggly mess just another sign of her depressive state seemed out of place and time, contributing to the feeling that Anne was just observing the rest of her 19th-century world but not really a part of it at all – the point I guess from this film’s standpoint, giving us an Anne E perhaps, who hopefully will be understood and beloved by a new generation, but certainly not the Anne Elliot of the Persuasion I know and love.
[But I did like seeing Wentworth still in uniform and teaching Anne the intricacies of the sextant – a fine future for these two, eight years coming, and finally happily there…] – in the end, I am really just a sappy romantic and not a very good critic…
Your thoughts?? [I could have gone on and on but I’ve said enough – now your turn!]
The Lyrics to “Quietly Yours”
White sails and off shore lights We were passing ships in the night Now I’m tracing shadows on your back Like I dreamt so many times
Oh for so long I’ve been waiting For so long, for a love like this And I was so sure baby I’d lost you for a minute but
There’s the sweetest Spring at my door Can you feel it? Just the same as before Many years have gone by But I knew you’d come
Quietly keeping This hope in my heart Prayed the night bring Back what I lost Many years have gone by But I never forgot
I’ve always been yours Only yours
There was a time when I lеt you go Allowed myself to be swayеd and pulled But for all my days I make a vow No words could ever shake me now
‘Cause for so long I’ve been waiting So long, for a love like this And I was so sure baby I’d lost you for a minute but
There’s the sweetest Spring at my door Can you feel it? Just the same as before Many years have gone by But I knew you’d come