Adventures Befalling a Janeite in Chicago ~ Day 2

Diary ~ Day Two

A morning of Regional Chapter training, an excellent gathering with many ideas thrown about.  Kudos to the JASNA team for all their efforts in coordinating this…. I missed the dance classes but “duty called” and it was well worth it!

…and then on to the first Plenary with five North American scholars discussing “How Far Across Countries, Cultures and Disciplines does Jane Austen’s Legacy Reach?”

Elizabeth Lenckos, of the University of Chicago,  introduced the panel and then queried the audience -“are we the protectors of Jane Austen’s legacy?”, discussed her iconic stature, and lamented that in many adaptations, both books and movies, the “power of her voice” goes missing.

Inger Sigrun Brodey, of the University of North Carolina, emphasizing that Austen’s books are alive (versus the term “legacy” which denotes “dead”), spoke about the various translations of Austen, especially the popularity of Chinese and Japanese editions.

Gillian Dow of the Chawton House Library, spoke on Austen’s contemporaries:  Maria Edgeworth, Hannah More, Felicia Hemans, Ann Radcliffe, etc, as well as telling us about Isabelle de Montolieu’s translation of Austen’s Sense & Sensibility into French in 1815…though it was far from a direct translation with quite hysterical results, something akin perhaps to today’s many loose adaptations?

Paula Morantz Cohen of Drexel University and author of several scholarly works, but known mostly for her Jane Austen in Scarsdale / and Boca, spoke on the social realism and romantic idealism in Austen’s domestic novels – Austen’s greatest legacy being her ability to analyze homogeneous societies, and how that translates in today’s world to the social dynamics of a gated community in Florida (Boca), “Clueless” in a high school, or the British singles scene in “Bridget Jones’ Diary.”

…and finally Peter Graham, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and author of the newly released Jane Austen and Charles Darwin: Naturalists and Novelists” – that Austen and Darwin were the two greatest empiricists of the 19th century; true knowledge = right reason, that Austen “got the scale of a study just right;” she wrote what she knew, her three or four families in a country village, observing all with a fine eye.

A lively discussion followed…

The Breakout Sessions were many and varied, and as always at the AGM, I was in a quandary as to which to attend- you can see all the options at and I do hope that many of the talks will be published in this December’s Persuasions, and so with that in mind I went for the visual treat of Deirdre Gilbert’s talk on “Covering Jane Austen.”  As a bookseller and collector I have long been interested in Austen’s illustrators, publishers and book bindings, so I was intrigued by this session.

Ms. Gilbert, an independent scholar, traced the history of covers and book jackets, focusing mostly on the British editions.  Starting with the cheap “yellowbacks” published by Routledge and sold in train stations, to such bindings by Macmillan in the early 20th-century as the “Peacock” edition with illustrations by Hugh Thomson, and on to the Burt’s Home Library Series, the Everyman Series, Dent’s publications, Penguin’s first Classics Series (with a dancing penguin!) sold in “Penguincubators” in train stations (this quite an amazing marketing tool!…see below,) the varied original art for dust jackets from the 1940s on, and to the present day with all the varied covers on all the novels with either period art reproductions or original contemporary designs.  A visual feast! 



  Next I was off to hear the always fabulous Edith Lank on “Louisa Sets Lord Brabourne Straight” – she delighted the huge crowd with pictures and stories about her Austen collection.  She started collecting any edition of Mansfield Park that she could find, and not setting out to be a book collector, she happily went along like this accruing all sorts of Austen-related works until she happened upon one of the Austen signatures that family members had cut from her letters to give to admirers…this letter accompanied by a letter from Francis Austen – Ms. Lank most generously handed this over to the audience who lovingly passed it from one to the next , each of us quietly “oohing and aahhing” and taking it all in…  She shared her lovely edition of Emma, and her tales of acquiring the many foreign translations she has, finding the world a smaller and friendlier place with the sharing of Austen’s words.  All this capped with her copy of the 1884 Brabourne edition of the Letters in which she discovered the notes of Louisa Langlois Lefroy (Anna Austen’s daughter and  wife of Septimus Bellas; Louisa is the author of the Bellas MS)… a quick finish to the talk (running out of time) left us with the tidbit that Eliza de Feuillide was indeed the daughter of Warren Hastings (Eliza had a son named Hastings with De Feuillide and later married Henry Austen) as the notes imply.  We all left wanting to hear more….!

The evening was filled with “Mysteries and Characters” with another lively panel that included Stephanie Barron, Carrie Bebris, Jennifer Hunter, and Steve Martin (no, not THAT Steve Martin, but THIS Steve Martin was most entertaining…)

Following a brief but inclusive history of the detective story, Mr. Martin took us through his formula for determining the nature of personalities in Austen’s novels…sort of a Briggs-Myers test for fictional characters:  the Good, True nature, Perceptive vs. the Bad, Facade, and Clueless.  The ideal union would be based on an “intelligent love,” a partnership of the mind, with Darcy and Elizabeth being the perfect match (likened to Holmes and Watson!)…this was all quite a fascinating study and I am not giving its just due…but it gave food for thought, especially on how to characterize Henry Crawford (BPS: bad, perceptive and selfish) or Frank Churchill (GCS:  good, clueless, and selfish)…get the idea?? [there was MUCH talk about Frank being “Good” !!]

Stephanie Barron, author of the Jane Austen mysteries, was asked why she chose Jane as the detective in her tales, rather than one of Austen’s characters… she explained that Jane is a “high analytic” with her reason predominant, she understands the human heart and motivation, and thus would make a perfect detective.  Carrie Bebris on the other hand has the Darcys as her detectives because she felt that in Pride & Prejudice both Elizabeth and Darcy were the solvers of the underlying mysteries and she wanted to take that further – she sees them as the 19th-century Nick and Nora Charles.  Both authors talked about their writing and revising techniques, use of language, and the incorporation of actual facts in Austen’s life and letters as starting points.

More on Day 3 tomorrow….  

The "Penguincubator"

Adventures Befalling a Janeite in Chicago…

Back from the AGM! and it was, as expected, fabulous!  I had decided to carry nothing electronic with me (except, I confess, the necessary cell phone) and take a break from this computer-driven world and really retreat into the early nineteenth-century.  So now I will retrace my four days in Austen’s world and fill you in on “all things Jane”; and only lament that it shall be days before I can return to Letter No. 3, and a terrible confession that the first day found me scouting the Emporium…

Day One Diary:

Arrived surprisingly on time midday Thursday and immediately perused the Emporium.  Expected a quick run-through to see the display of books and merchandise, but, of course was captivated by all the shopping opportunities, and for one who can browse among just books for hours, this was a happy intro to the whole weekend.

Jane Austen Books, with the torch recently passed from Pat Latkin to Jennifer Weinbrecht and her two daughters Amy and Beth [click here for their website, soon to be updated], had the usual feast of old and new, and after semi-guiltily adding to my luggage weight moved on to the Ontario-based Traveler’s Tales, a bookstore often at the AGMs that never fails with its offering of used and rare literary, history, and domestic arts titles [am now in trouble with my luggage weight concerns and will need to ship any further purchases…]

A quick stop at Figaro, and antiques shop of “Parisian Interiors”  whose lovely display of decorative arts (think tea cups and Burleigh China in shades of pink and blue,) scarves for self-adornment, french soaps, and fashion  illustrations –  all a tempting treat and a perfect addition to the Emporium atmosphere.

Back to more books with a visit with Jones Books  [publisher of Kim Wilson’s Jane Austen and Tea and her new book on In the Garden with Jane Austen  as well as other Austen-related titles], and then onto the locally owned Barbara’s Bookstore, also with a nice selection of titles, including the new Vintage Classics series of all of Austen’s novels with EXCELLENT covers depicting regency fashion illustrations (see the blog Adventures in Reading for a look at all the covers and here at to purchase, and also at for another set of new covers for Austen with contemporary and simple designs)



     Then on to several booths of fashion…bonnets, dresses, laces, reticules; there is so much talent out there, that I am tempted to dust off my last-used-twenty-years-ago sewing machine (but alas! can one sew AND blog?? doubtful…), and finally a jewelry designer who turns antique buttons, cuff-links, tie-clasps into any number of gorgeous wearable creations (and who I am sorry to say has no website)..

For this Lizzie-like bonnet, visit Bee in Your Bonnet, for custom-made regency style millinery

The Regional Chapter tables never fail to please and delight with numerous cards, calendars, t-shirts, bookmarks, paper-dolls, etc…all perfect gifts for the Janeite on your list (go to the JASNA site’s merchandise page for a sampling)…  and don’t forget to order your 2009 calendar(s) from the Wisconsin Chapter (there is no picture here, so just trust me that they are the best yet and will be a pleasure to look at throughout the whole year!)

So for someone who really hates to shop (excepting for books…heck, we all need at least ONE vice!), my bag is now indeed overweight and I must ready myself for the evening festivities…

Jeff Nigro of the Art Institute of Chicago (currently the Director of Adult Programs), who says that his relationship with Austen was “love at first read”  (I love this!), spoke on “Visualizing Jane Austen & Jane Austen Visualizing.”  With references to the 1995 P&P (Ehle / Firth) showing the scene with Lydia tossing her recently-purchased bonnet, he stressed that in the novel there is no description of the bonnet, leaving the reader to imagine its ugliness, while in the movie it has to be visualized and so indeed the movie creator struggles to get this just right (and why it may not be the bonnet YOU have been imagining all these years!)

Mr. Nigro then shifted to visualizing Austen herself, i.e. the two drawings of Austen by her sister Cassandra, the 1804 watercolor and the 1810-11 sketch, and how the illusive nature of both has resulted in varying and disparate interpretations, as well as outright editing to fit contemporary views.









And finally Nigro reviewed the various illustrators of Austen’s novels, from Thomson and the Brocks to 20th-century artists, and ending and coming full-circle with the visualizing aspect of movie adaptations.  He asked aloud how Jane Austen might feel about these various adaptations and concluded that she would likely approve, as he referenced her letters voicing her various opinions on how her characters looked by comparing them to portraits she viewed (though never finding one satisfactory for her own vision of Mrs. Darcy.)

A fabulous talk!…and a terrific preface to the next three days!  [stay-tuned tomorrow for Day 2…there is a Darcy treat in the offing….ah! but what a tease…he does not show up until Day 4!]

Chicago Beckons … and a Mini Round-up

        …if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad…

                                        –Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

  Off to the AGM in Chicago…will post on the many adventures upon my return…!

But before I depart, here are a few items worth sharing:

*JASNA has posted online the book reviews in its Summer News issue; there are reviews for the following books (this is great resource for book reviews:  scroll down for other issues)

*Want to go back in time?  here is an article with some sobering insights on real life in the past we so hanker for:   “Back in the Good Old Days”at WalesOnline.

*JASNA is looking for someone to draw a map of Bath in Austen’s time for their online collection of maps… for more information see the Central New Jersey JASNA Chapter blog.

*On the Janeites discussion group, there was a post with the following quizzes, all Austen-related:

*See this travel blog that treks in search of Darcy, with many pictures of Chatsworth and other sites relating to P&P.

*The Independent reports of the “re-invention” of High Tea and Afternoon Tea in London and environs as a way to fill up at less the cost….and in grand style!