Blog Tour: “Fashionable Goodness” by Brenda Cox

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.

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Here is the tour schedule – check back each day for the updated links:

Oct. 20:  Jane Austen’s World, Vic Sanborn, Interview with the author [live today!]

Oct. 21:  My Jane Austen Book Club, Maria Grazia, Giveaway and Guest Post, “Sydney Smith, Anglican Clergyman and Proponent of Catholic Rights, Potential Model for Henry Tilney”

Oct. 22:  Clutching My Pearls, Lona Manning, Book Review

Oct. 23:  Jane Austen Daily on Facebook, “Austen and Her Nephews Worship (1808)” – scroll down for the post

Oct. 25:  Jane Austen in Vermont, Deborah Barnum, Giveaway, Excerpt from Chapter 1, and Book Review

Oct. 25:  Jane Austen and Fashionable Goodness, History, Real Life and Faith, Michelle Ule, Book Review

Oct. 27:  Australasian Christian Writers, Donna Fletcher Crow, Guest Post, “Seven Things Historical Fiction Writers Should Know about the Church of England”

Oct. 30:  Regency History, Andrew Knowles, Book Review and Video Interview

Nov. 1:  So Little Time, So Much to Read!, Candy Morton, Guest Post, “Women as Religious Leaders in Austen’s England”

Nov. 2:  Austen Variations, Shannon Winslow, Interview, Excerpt from Chapter 7, “The Clergyman’s Wife”

Nov. 3:  Laura’s Reviews, Laura Gerold, Book Review

Nov. 4:  Jane Austen’s World and Kindred Spirit, Saved by Grace, Rachel Dodge, Book Review and Giveaway

Nov. 7:  The Authorized Version, Donna Fletcher Crow, Book Review and Excerpt

Nov. 8:  Julie Klassen, Book Review and Guest Post, “Jane Austen at Church”

Jan. 10:  The Calico Critic, Laura Hartness, Book Review

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Some recommendations:

  • “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.]

Enjoy the tour!

©2022 Jane Austen in Vermont

Book Review ~ Jane Austen’s Sewing Box

book cover jane austens sewing boxJane Austen’s Sewing Box: Craft Projects & Stories from Jane Austen’s Novels. 

by Jennifer Forest.  Murdoch Books Australia, 2009 

ISBN:  9781741963748, paperback, 224 pages.

 

 

 

 

 This is a lovely, sumptuous book.  When it first arrived, I did a quick skim – it is filled with photographs, decorated papers, fashion plates, quotes from Austen, and a good number of handiwork projects – hmmm, I thought, maybe one of those books that just looks nice but is of little substance – a coffee table [albeit a small one] book you look at once and then relegate it to collect dust in the “parlor” –  But on further study I found within these 224 pages a wealth of information – a brief but amazingly thorough introductory commentary on Regency historic and social life, the world of “women’s work” in Austen’s time, and the references to Austen’s many mentions of these real-life activities in her novels and letters.

 Ms. Forest has a background in history and cultural heritage, and combining this knowledge, her love of Austen and a “passion for fabric arts and crafts,” she has given us a treasure of a book.  With a starting point of finding Austen’s references to handi- and fancy work, Forest puts these quotes in their historical context, explains the meaning and use of the piece, and then provides instructions for each project – each of varying skill level, each a different task – there is knitting, sewing, embroidery, netting, paperwork, glasswork, and canvas-work, a total of eighteen different projects – from a letter case, linen cravat, fur tippet, to a pin cushion, reticule, bonnet and muslin cap – all mentioned by Jane Austen, and here lovingly replicated, with photographs of Regency era decorative arts and Ackermann’s fashion plates interspersed throughout. 

Best to show an example, so I will choose the huswife [page 100ff]  [ “the huswife was a small fabric case with pockets to hold all those tools for sewing and needlework – scissors, tape measure, thread, pins, and pin cushion”( page 104)]: 

This is a sewing task for beginners, with two pages of photographs of the finished piece, a short history of the huswife and its uses, a quote [all the quotes are written in script] from Emma where Austen uses the term [there is also a second quote from Sense & Sensibility spoken by Anne Steele] – here Miss Bates has misplaced a letter from Jane Fairfax that she later reads to Emma:

 “Thank you. You are so kind!” replied the happily deceived aunt, while eagerly hunting for the letter. “Oh here it is.  I was sure it could not be far off, but I had put my huswife on it, you see, and without being aware, and so it was hid.”  [page 104, quoting Emma]

 This is followed by a full page of blue decorated paper with a part of the quote, a full page fashion plate from Ackermann’s, and a full page of an art reproduction depicting a woman at her fancy work, then a full page photograph of a detail from a piece of Regency furniture [all photographs are from the Johnston Collection *], and then three pages of project instructions with black and white drawings, and a final photograph of a furniture detail.  This format and sequence is followed for each of the eighteen projects, ending with a list of suppliers, references and an index.

johnston collection desk

from The Johnston Collection

 

All these Austen quotes, taken out of context, are quite a wonderful discovery! – they can so easily be passed over in the reading – what indeed IS a huswife? or a tippet? [“Jane, dear Jane, where are you? here is your tippet.  Mrs. Weston begs you to put on your tippet.”]  Or a transparency? [“and its greatest elegancies and ornaments were a faded footstool of Julia’s work, too ill done for the drawing room, three transparencies, made in a rage for transparencies…”] or a reticule? [“…a letter which she [Mrs. Elton] had apparently been reading aloud to Miss Fairfax, and return it into the purple and gold reticule by her side.”]  or “netting” for that matter [“They all paint tables, cover screens and net purses” says Charles Bingley]; and then of course Lady Bertram’s carpet-work and “yards of fringe!” 

This book opened up a whole new awareness of Austen’s writing in the NOW – her knowing what her readers would glean from these almost off-hand references [as in Mrs. Elton’s purple and gold reticule, “expensive colours that Austen possibly chose to sketch her character’s pretensions to grandeur, associated as they were with royalty and luxury.” [page 182] – and as always one is awed by Austen’s use of such fine details to delineate character.

fashion plate yellow dress

from Costumes.org

 The book is by no means comprehensive on the subject – but there are so many tidbits of Regency social life and customs, coupled with Austen’s words – I found in the reading an “oasis of calm”, a slowing down, a return to a time of sewing for the poor, or making your brother’s shirts (done in private), and your embroidery and fancy work and painting put on public display to show yourself as “an accomplished woman” [a la Mr. Darcy] – and the exquisite paper and decoration, the furniture details, and the fashion illustrations all combine to create this time-warp, invoking the Regency era and “its enthusiastic appreciation of design in all forms – dress, architecture, interiors, furniture, wallpaper and fabric” [page 17] – the whole sphere is beautifully presented in these pages and makes this a wonderful addition to your Jane Austen collection and a great starting point for your creative endeavors! 

5 full inkwells [out of 5]

* The Johnston Collection is “a Fine and Decorative Arts Museum, Gallery and Reference Library in East Melbourne, Australia.  It is no ordinary museum with roped off exhibits, but presents an astonishing and diverse collection arranged in the English Country House Style.”  Visit their website for the history, gallery exhibits, and a sampling of the treasures in the collection.

Posted by Deb

Book Review ~ Jane Austen & Crime

Jane Austen & Crime, by Susannah Fullerton.  3rd edition.  Jones Books, 2006 [Fullerton is the President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia]

ja-crime-coverA new approach to Jane Austen seemed impossible, but Susannah Fullerton . . . has brilliantly hit on the theme of crime and punishment in Austen. Fullerton shows how the Regency world . . . was really a dangerous place with a fast rising crime rate and a legal system that handed out ferocious sentences. Her book will be essential reading for every Janeite.”-Claire Tomalin, author of Jane Austen: A Life

 

 

 

I admit to passing over this book when it was first available – somehow, I just didn’t want to sully my love of Austen and the “pictures of perfection” the world of her novels presents.  One knows, of course, that it is there, lurking behind the scenes, with a brief reference here, or a shady character there; and as readers of Jane Austen know, these references would have been better understood by her contemporaries than by us today, unless we are well-versed in the social history of Georgian and Regency England.

My interest peaked with my recent absorption in several detective novels set in the Regency period (the Julian Kestrel series by Kate Ross) –  these mysteries evoke the time beautifully – the lovely clothes, the balls, the always proper social behaviors – but also the underbelly of this world – the crime, the poverty, the seedy desperate lives, the world that Dickens and his characters inhabited. Indeed there are many non-fiction books on this subject, just on London alone [see below for further reading], but I turned to Fullerton’s book to get not only a quick overview of the crime of the time, but to see it in the context of Jane Austen’s life and works.  As Fullerton begins:

 Why Jane Austen and Crime?  Why the juxtaposition of these seemingly disparate concepts? Simply put, because the relationship is there. Crimes against human life, crimes against property, crimes of passion, social crimes, grim punishments, and even fictional (Gothic) crime were very much a part of the Georgian world.  Ever the perceptive observer of her society, Jane Austen does indeed include comments on crime and the effects of crime in her letters, in her juvenilia and, treated very differently, in her mature novels.  An examination of crime in Jane Austen’s world and fiction suggests many new perceptions of her work and gives a greater understanding of her genius. [p.3]

And Fullerton ends with:

 Jane Austen was not a reformer.  She suggests no solution to these problems.  Rather she was a highly perceptive observer of her society who commented incisively on the behaviour of men and women.  She included criminal behavior in her works and she included punishment even, if unlike Dickens, she never made crime the climax of her story or chose a prison as the setting for a novel.  She was aware of the confused laws which governed the Georgian age, she knew of the debates concerning the softening or abolishing of these laws, she wove her knowledge into the fabric of her writing.  Crime became a part of her plots, crime revealed character, crime emphasized duty and responsibility, and crime even united some of the heroines and heroes.  She examined the inclination to do evil, analysed the faulty propensity which drives a man to wrong-doing, depicted the damage cause by doing wrong and described criminal feelings in her characters.  In doing so she reflected and commented on the Georgian criminal scene with accuracy and sharp intelligence.  [p. 217]

And in between, Fullerton neatly presents the subject in fine organized fashion:

  • Crime against life (murder and suicide)
  • Crime against property (theft)
  • Crimes of passion (adultery, elopement, prostitution, rape, bastards)
  • Social crime (duelling, poaching, smuggling, gaming)
  • Gothic crime
  • Punishment and the law (gaols, hanging, other punishments, men of the law)

Within each section, the subject is analyzed in its historical context with many factual references to the laws and the notable crimes of the time, then in the context of Austen’s life; for example, her Aunt Leigh Perrot on trial for theft; her brother Edward Knight a magistrate at Godmerhsam.  Fullerton then takes us through the novels and letters to show by example how any specific crime drives the plot or shapes a character – we see John Dashwood clearly painted as the thief he is; Willoughby as a serial seducer; the gravity of Wickham’s intended “elopement” with Georgiana and the actual with Lydia; even Mrs. Norris’s petty thefts, rather glossed over in Mansfield Park, but there for the close reader to see;  we learn that Harriet Smith’s talking to the gypsies in Emma was actually a crime punishable by death by hanging!; how the theft of the chickens in Emma, actually brings about the marriage of Emma and Knightley; the smuggling of tea and other luxuries, a crime more serious than murder [London tea smugglers operated in gangs of up to 50!, and most of London enjoyed this favored beverage in its smuggled form [p. 142], certainly Jane loved her tea as did many of her characters]; the very brief reference to Brandon’s duelling with Willoughby in Sense & Sensibility, so deftly written by Austen that we barely know of it:  “We met by appointment, he to defend, I to punish his conduct.”  [Fullerton points out that with this one sentence, Brandon becomes the only one of Austen’s heroes to engage in criminal activity. [p.124]].  We see Emma’s slight of Miss Bates as more than just an uncomfortable rudeness, but really a crime of bad manners, a wickedness [p.217] on Emma’s part that tells us more about her than almost anything else in the book – it is the turning point in the story when Emma finally sees herself.  And what of John Thorpe?- his lies and holding Catherine in his carriage against her will; the issues of adultery and imprisonment in Mansfield Park; the gaming laws that allowed only the wealthy to own sporting dogs, as John Middleton and Mr. Darcy.  The list goes on with these references, some obvious, some mere mention, Fullerton pulling it all together, and by giving us a better understanding of the contemporary social and moral expectations, we better understand what Austen was speaking of…

 

”]The three villains in horsemen's greatcoats [Thomson, NA]I most appreciated Fullerton’s many references to the juvenilia – it is in these works that Austen shows us the realities of her greater society, all indeed presented in an exaggerated manner with her youthful humor, but we do see how she understood this underside of life in both London and her country villages, a knowledge also apparent in the quick, short references in her letters.  For instance, in this short passage from Letter 95 [Le Faye, p. 248], Austen writes her sister from Godmersham Park:

 

Edward and I had a delightful morn for our drive there…. He went to inspect the Gaol, as a visiting Magistrate, & took me with him. – I was gratified – & went through all the feelings which People must go through I think in visiting such a Building.” 

Austen then goes on to talk of shopping and a party, etc., but what did she actually SEE on that visit, and how frustrating she tells no more!  Here Fullerton gives us what Jane doesn’t – she explains exactly what the Canterbury Gaol would have been like, exactly what Austen would have experienced. Austen’s reference to being “gratified” takes us back to the juvenilia where crimes are everywhere, punishment handily doled out, all in high humor.

 I highly recommend this book –  with all the factual references linked so well to Austen’s world, the many contemporary illustrations, helpful notes and bibliography aside – it is actually a fabulous and entertaining read!  This is not a long book or a great scholarly analysis of Austen and how crime figures in her works, but the interweaving of the laws of the day, real crimes and punishments, with the innumerable references to the fiction and letters, some so easy to miss on a casual reading, all this gives us a heightened awareness of how while Austen seems to present a nearly perfect social order on a very tiny scale, that not far behind the scene are some very serious worldly concerns, frighteningly real and not so pretty. 

Thomas Rowlandson - The Duel

Thomas Rowlandson - The Duel

 5 Full inkwells (out of 5)

The book is available from Jones Books.  However, the JASNA-Vermont Chapter has several copies for sale, so, if you would like to support our local group, please contact us directly.

 Further Reading:

Fullterton provides a bibliography on the many aspects of crime of the period.  I list here only a few:

  1. Bovill, E.W.  English Country Life: 1780-1830 [Oxford, 1962]
  2. Collins, Philip.  Dickens and Crime [Macmillan, 1962]
  3. Emsley, Clive.  Crime and Society in England 1750-1900[ Longman 1987]
  4. Harvey, A.D.  Sex in Georgian England [St Martin’s, 1994]
  5. Hibbert, Christopher. Highwaymen[Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967]
  6. Ives, Sidney.  The Trial of Mrs. Leigh Perrot [Stinehour, 1980]
  7. Low, Donald.  The Regency Underworld [Sutton, 1999]
  8. McLynn, Frank.  Crime and Punishment in Eighteenth Century England [Routledge, 1989]
  9. Murray, Venetia.  An Elegant Madness:  High Society in Regency England [Viking, 1999]; published as High Society: A Social History of the Regency Period 1788-1830 in the UK in 1998]
  10. Picard, Liza.  Dr. Johnson’s London [St. Martin’s, 2002]
  11. Sinclair, Olga.  Gretna Green: A Romantic History [Chivers, 1989]

Online references: