A Postscript to Syrie James’ Jane Austen’s First Love ~ Guest Post by Ron Dunning

Jane Austens First Love by Syrie JamesSyrie James’s new work, Jane Austen’s First Love, tells the tale of one Edward Taylor as a possible first love, pre-Tom Lefroy, for Jane Austen. It is fiction, but there is too much truth in the story, based largely on the few comments Austen made in letters to her sister Cassandra and James’ in-depth research into Taylor’s life, to have us shelve this book as merely a pretty fiction.

You can read Syrie’s post about it here at Jane Austen in Vermont and on various other blogs [see the full list here]

Syrie also wrote in more detail about Edward Taylor here: http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2014/12/edward-taylor-of-bifrons-jane-austens.htmlRon Dunning, of Jane Austen genealogy fame, on reading about Syrie’s book, did some research into this Edward Taylor and has found some amazing connections to Jane Austen’s family – you will see that though Jane may not have had Edward Taylor for herself, future generations saw the Austen and Taylor families very much entwined… so here is Ron to tell us all about it. And thank you Ron for sharing this with us!

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A Postscript to Jane Austen’s First Love, by Ronald Dunning

Jane Austen may have been unlucky in her love for Edward Taylor, but four members of his family were more receptive to the attentions of hers. It can be illustrated in a drop-chart of the descendants of Edward Taylor’s parents, Edward Taylor the elder, and Margaret Taylor, to be found on the following link [and see below for an abbreviated version so you can follow the generations]: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=DESC&db=janeausten&id=I17370

BifronsParkKent

Bifrons Park, Kent

The number given to each person indicates the level of descent, with the elder Edward and Margaret in the first position. Their daughter Charlotte [JA’s Edward Taylor’s sister] married the Rev. Edward Northey, a Canon of Windsor, and two of that couple’s daughters married sons of Edward (Austen) Knight.

I.  The first, Charlotte Northey, married Henry Knight [son of JA’s brother Edward], after his first wife, Sophia Cage, had died. Poor Charlotte had a very short married life too, dying three years later. Their one daughter, Agnes Charlotte Knight, married Narborough Hughes D’Aeth. Agnes had the good fortune that her mother lacked, and lived a long life of ninety years, during which she bore at least thirteen children.

Rev Edward Northey

Rev Edward Northey

[you can read about the Northey family here]

The surname D’Aeth is pronounced Death by the family. I’m told that during the Second World War a Commander D’Aeth of the Royal Navy was promoted to Captain, but his men refused to serve under a Captain Death – so he felt it was best to change his surname. [One plug, if I may – the names Narborough and Cloudesley were given to many boys born to the D’Aeth family, and the reason is interesting. I wrote about it in an article, to be found here: http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/articles/longitude.html]

II.  Returning to the chart, Charlotte Northey’s sister, Mary Northey, married Henry Knight’s brother, the Rev. William Knight. Mary was, like her sister, a second wife, and more than twenty years younger than William. She became the step-mother to his eight children, and bore three daughters of her own, those on the chart. Unfortunately she too was visited by tragedy – the daughters, aged between two and five, all died within a week of one another, from smallpox.

III.  There were two further connections, both among the descendants of Jane Austen’s fondly-doted-upon Edward Taylor. (Edward is half-way down the chart, the second person with the generational number 2.) His great-granddaughter Dorothy Mary Deedes (generation 5) married Lionel Charles Edward Knight, a great-grandson of JA’s brother Edward Austen Knight. Fortunately, there is no need to report a family tragedy here, since she lived into ripe old age.

IV.  The fourth connection is less obvious – still a descendant of the younger Edward Taylor, but not a person who married a Knight. Nevertheless she brings the story full circle. Dorothy Mary Deedes’s brother, Herbert William Deedes [so Edward Taylor’s great-grandson, but also the great-great-nephew of Edward Austen Knight’s wife Elizabeth Bridges – confused enough now??], had a daughter who is simply identified in the chart as ‘Living Deedes,’ because she is still living. She is the dowager Lady FitzWalter of Goodnestone Park – whence Lady Bridges wrote to announce the betrothal of her daughters, one of them her daughter Elizabeth who married Edward Austen Knight! [see Syrie’s post here on Lady Bridges’ letters] Goodnestone in Austens Day With the Austen pedigree, where one story ends, another begins – Lord and Lady FitzWalter were cousins, both descended from the Bridges. But let’s leave it for another time …

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Thank you Ron for this! – I append here a portion of the genealogy chart that shows these connections – please visit Ron’s genealogy page http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=DESC&db=janeausten&id=I17370  for the full chart and links from each name – it is all quite daunting, and why I am showing here only the names that connect Taylor and Jane Austen!

The Edward Taylor Sr Genealogy:

1 Edward TAYLOR of Bifrons; Rector of Patrixbourne b: 26 AUG 1734 [JA’s Edward Taylor’s father]

+ Margaret TAYLOR (LATER PAYLER) b: ABT 1743 d: 27 APR 1780    

2 Charlotte TAYLOR d: 19 FEB 1837 [Edward Taylor’s daughter]

+ Edward NORTHEY MA, Canon of Windsor b: 22 OCT 1754 d: 18 FEB 1828        

3 Charlotte NORTHEY d: 28 JUN 1839 [Edward Taylor’s grand-daughter]

+ Henry KNIGHT b: 27 MAY 1797 d: 1843 [son of Edward Austen Knight, JA’s brother]

4 Agnes Charlotte KNIGHT b: 1837 d: 1927 + Narborough Hughes D’AETH of Knowlton Court, Kent; JP, DL, MA b: ABT 1821 d: 1886

5 Lewis Narborough Hughes D’AETH b: 13 MAR 1858 d: 21 OCT 1920

+ Eleanor Frances SNEYD b: ABT 1866         

3 Mary NORTHEY b: ABT 1820 d: 07 DEC 1854 [Edward Taylor’s grand-daughter]

+ William KNIGHT Rector of Steventon b: 10 OCT 1798 d: 05 DEC 1873 [son of Edward Austen Knight, JA’s brother]

4 Mary Agnes KNIGHT b: 1843 d: 15 JUN 1848

4 Cecilia KNIGHT b: 1844 d: 09 JUN 1848 4 Augusta KNIGHT b: 1845 d: 09 JUN 1848

Edward Taylor   2 Edward TAYLOR Esq., of Bifrons, co. Kent; MP for Canterbury (1807-1812) b: 24 JUN 1774 d: 22 JUN 1843 [this is JA’s Edward Taylor, brother to Charlotte Taylor – her daughters Charlotte and Mary each married Jane Austen’s nephews Henry and William as shown above]

+ Louisa BECKINGHAM

3 Emily Octavia TAYLOR

+ William DEEDES of Sandling Park, co. Kent; JP, DL, MP for East Kent b: 17 OCT 1796 d: 30 NOV 1862

4 Louisa DEEDES
4 Emily DEEDES
4 Mary DEEDES
4 William DEEDES b: 11 OCT 1834

4 Herbert George DEEDES King’s Royal Rifle Corps; of Saltwood Castle b: 28 SEP 1836 d: 05 MAY 1891
+ Rose Elinor BARROW   

5 Dorothy Mary DEEDES [great-grand-daughter of Edward Taylor]

+ Lionel Charles Edward KNIGHT b: 13 NOV 1872 d: 29 JAN 1931 [great-grandson of Edward Austen Knight, Jane Austen’s brother]

6 Elizabeth Margaret KNIGHT b: 12 MAY 1909 d: 1996
+ Ian Charles Rose ROSE d: 11 DEC 1962

5 Herbert William DEEDES of Galt, Hythe, co. Kent, and formerly of Sandling Castle and Saltwood Castle
+ Melesina Gladys CHENEVIX-TRENCH JP b: 11 SEP 1884 d: 16 JAN 1966

6 William Francis DEEDES Lord Deedes of Aldington (Kent); Editor of the Daily Telegraph b: 1913 d: 2006     

6 Living DEEDES [dowager Lady FitzWalter of Goodnestone Park]
+ FitzWalter Brook PLUMPTRE 21st Baron FitzWalter b: 15 JAN 1914 d: 14 OCT 2004

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Is your head spinning yet??! If you have questions, please ask away – and any comments on Syrie’s original post will qualify you for the Grand Giveaway – deadline is tonight December 21 at 11:59pm. And just to make your head continue in its spin, here is a portrait of “The Children of John Taylor of Bifrons Park,” by John Closterman, 1696? [from the National Portrait Gallery] – one of these boys is presumably Jane’s own Edward Taylor’s grandfather Herbert Taylor [though he seems to have been born in 1698, so perhaps the dating of the portrait is off?  – more questions to ponder!]

 

NPG 5320; The Children of John Taylor of Bifrons Park by John Closterman

2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Holiday Blog Tour & Grand Giveaway Contest! ~ Chatting with Syrie James about her Jane Austen’s First Love

“The summer of 1791 is so firmly fixed in my memory that I believe I can never forget it; every detail is as fresh and vivid as if it occurred only yesterday, and looking back, there are times when it seems as if my life never really began until that moment – the moment when I first met him.”

And so begins Jane Austen’s First Love

Jane Austens First Love by Syrie James

Gentle Readers: As part of her Holiday Blog Tour, Syrie James joins us today to answer a few questions about her latest book Jane Austen’s First Love. Syrie has based her tale on the real-life Edward Taylor, mentioned by Austen in her letters – he may have been her never-forgotten First Love and hence perhaps a model for her very own Mr. Darcy. Today Syrie tells us a bit about her research into Edward Taylor and his world and a few thoughts on her favorite Austen books in her own collection. Please see below for the Grand Giveaway Contest information…

JAFL Banner v6


JAIV:
As far as I can tell, there are three references to Edward Taylor in Jane Austen’s letters: 

-Ltr. 6 of Sept 15-16, 1796, where she writes ““We went by Bifrons, & I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure, the abode of Him, on whom I once fondly doated.” 

-Ltr. 14 of Dec 18-19, 1798, where she writes the news of Taylor’s possible inheritance; and 

-Ltr. 25 of Nov 8-9, 1800, on news of his possible marriage to a cousin and where she makes mention of “those beautiful dark Eyes” [he marries someone else in 1802] 

Can you tell us something of the “ah-ha” moment that prompted you to look into this “fondly doated” upon young man of the “dark Eyes” – and finding nothing much, decided to pursue an extensive research project to learn everything you could about him and his family?? When were you held captive by the idea that Jane Austen indeed could have fallen madly in Love with this young man?? 

SJ: Sure, Deb! The “ah-ha” moment occurred when I was re-reading the above-quoted letter that Jane wrote to her Edward Taylor for JA in Vermontsister Cassandra in Sept. 1796. When I read that line, I sat up in my chair in stunned excitement. Who was Jane talking about? What was Bifrons? Who was the “Him” she referred to? The way she phrased it, whoever it was, it seemed very clear that Jane had once been crazy in love with “Him.”

I quickly learned that the “Him” was a young man named Edward Taylor, and the “abode” was Bifrons Park, the estate in Kent he would one day inherit. To my frustration, there was almost no other information about Edward Taylor in Austen biographies, even though there were those two other mentions of him in later letters that also hinted at how fond she was of him. I knew Jane met him as a teenager while visiting in Kent, but that was about it. So I delved into extensive research—and I’m excited to say that I uncovered his true story. What I learned was groundbreaking. He was an extraordinary young man, and it became very easy to see why Jane fell head over heels for him.


JAIV:
I don’t want to ask many questions about the book so as not to give away too much of its plot [no spoilers here!], but I would like to ask, how difficult [or easy!] was it for you to enter into Jane Austen’s head and essentially become her at the age of fifteen? And to put on paper what would be this 15-year-old’s first-person narrative?

SJ: I had such fun writing about Jane Austen at age fifteen!  I started with all the qualities she clearly possessed as a grown woman: fierce intelligence, a great (and sometimes snarky) sense of humor, boundless imagination, a love of fashion (governed by a tiny budget), and a driven need to succeed, all tempered by sensitivity and deep affection for those she loved. I then imagined her as a young woman based on what I knew of her life: she grew up in a home filled with noisy, active boys, was educated by them side-by-side, and was included in their sports and games. The juvenilia she wrote as a teenager is also lively and hilarious, an indication of her youthful personality. As with all my other Austen novels, I re-read her work over and over during the composition of this book, to keep her voice in my head.

JAIV: Your research interests me a great deal – I know you found previously unknown facts about what appeared to be a very shadowy figure in Jane Austen’s life, and were from there able to fashion a story of possible truth, a lovely weaving of fact and fiction – you have already written about this on several sites and blogs [including here at Jane Austen in Vermont: https://janeausteninvermont.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/guest-post-syrie-james-on-jane-austens-first-love-goodnestone-park-and-the-bridges-family/ ] …  so I’d rather ask you a few questions about your own Austen library: 

– What do you consider the best, the I-cannot-live-without, book by or about Jane Austen in your collection? 

Le Faye - Letters - 4th ed

SJ: That’s hard—I have hundreds of Austen-related books. But I guess the one I turn to the most is Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye. It’s the world’s best window into Jane Austen’s mind, heart, and soul.

JAIV: What book(s) would you say you especially treasure? In the two categories of older / collectible, and more recent works?

SJ: OLDER/COLLECTIBLE:

Title page of The Taylor Papers Jane Austen in VermontI treasure The Taylor Papers (1913), the rare book I discovered when researching Edward Taylor. A collection of memoirs and letters written by Edward’s brother, Sir Herbert Taylor, it filled in a wealth of details about the Taylor family and the children’s extraordinary and well-traveled childhood, enabling me to understand who Edward Taylor was when Jane Austen met him—and why she adored him.

I also dearly treasure my illustrated set of Jane Austen’s classics (1892, Little Brown & Company). Unfortunately it only includes five of her novels—it’s missing my favorite, Pride and Prejudice.

And I treasure The Brontes: Life and Letters (1908) edited by Clement Shorter, a two-volume work containing all of Charlotte Brontë’s correspondence—it was invaluable when I was writing my novel The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë.

MORE RECENT PUBLICATIONS

Among my favorites (they’re still all older books!) are a whole shelf full of hardcover annotated versions of a great many classics, from Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables, and Dracula, to the 3-volume set The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes.

JAIV: What title would you most like to own, that either you have been unable to locate or find it is unattainable??

SJ: Pride and Prejudice, (1892, Little Brown & Company) to complete my illustrated set of Jane Austen’s classics.

JAIV: Ah yes! The elusive missing volume – I have a few of those myself! 

All this research, invaluable for your fictional tale, should be made available to Austen scholars! – do you intend to write an article about Taylor and his family for one of the Jane Austen publications? [you must!]

SJ: Actually I did write just such an article. Entitled “Jane’s First Love?” the six-page article with lovely images was published in the July/August 2014 issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine.

Jane Austens Regency World Magazine Jul Aug 2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

JAIV: Yes, I read that article Syrie – I do hope everyone is able to read it as well.

Your novel tells of Austen before she met Tom Lefroy, the young man we most often hear as being her first and long-ForbiddenCoverLgForWebheld Love [and further rendered into “truth” by the movie ‘Becoming Jane’…]; your book The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen tells the tale of her mysterious love met at the sea-side in later life. Can you tell us what’s up next??  

SJ: I have a few other Austen-tales in mind! At the moment, though, I’m hard at work co-writing the sequel to Forbidden with my talented son, Ryan James.

JAIV:  Excellent news! 

 Now, I just have to ask Syrie, as I know you love the movies: if your book was to become a movie, who would you cast in the major roles?

SJ: For Jane Austen, I think Saoirse Ronan, Hailee Steinfeld, or Kaya Scodelario could be a good choice. For Edward Taylor I’d be thrilled to have the role played by Jamie Blackley (from the film IF I STAY) or Douglas Booth, who played Romeo in ROMEO AND JULIET  (2013.)

Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth

Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth

Jamie Blackley

Jamie Blackley

JAIV:  I can see that you have thought this through – and all very engaging choices – this book is a sure candidate for a book-to-movie venture, don’t you think?! – Anything else you might like to add Syrie??

SJ: Thank you so much for having me here today, Deb. I’m excited to share Jane Austen’s First Love with the world, just in time for the holidays! Readers, do you have any questions for me? Any specific thoughts about Jane Austen’s First Love, or my other books? I’d love to hear!

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Thank you Syrie for joining us today! If you have any questions or comments for Syrie, please respond in the comment box below to enter into the Grand Giveaway Contest – all information is below:

Book Blurb: In the summer of 1791, fifteen-year-old Miss Jane Austen is determined to accomplish three things: to do something useful, write something worthy and fall madly in love. While visiting at Goodnestone Park in Kent for a month of festivities in honour of her brother’s engagement to Miss Elizabeth Bridges, Jane meets the boy-next-door — the wealthy, worldly and devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to Bifrons Park, and hopefully her heart! Like many of Jane’s future heroes and heroines, she soon realises that there are obstacles — social, financial and otherwise — blocking her path to love and marriage, one of them personified by her beautiful and sweet tempered rival, Charlotte Payler.

Unsure of her own budding romance, but confident in her powers of observation, Jane distracts herself by attempting to maneuver the affections of three other young couples. But when her well-intentioned matchmaking efforts turn into blundering misalliance, Jane must choose between following her own happily-ever-after, or repairing those relationships which, based on erroneous first impressions, she has misaligned.

QUICK FACTS: 


Syrie James headshot 2012 x 250AUTHOR BIO: 

Syrie James, hailed as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings” by Los Angeles Magazine, is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels that have been translated into 18 languages. Her books have been awarded the Audio Book Association Audie, designated as Editor’s Picks by Library Journal, named a Discover Great New Writer’s Selection by Barnes and Noble, a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association, and Best Book of the Year by The Romance Reviews and Suspense Magazine. Syrie is a member of the WGA and lives in Los Angeles. Please visit her at syriejames.com, Facebook or say hello on Twitter @SyrieJames.

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GIVEAWAY DETAILS: 

Grand Giveaway Contest: Win One of Five Fabulous Jane Austen-inspired Prize Packages

To celebrate the holidays and the release of Jane Austen’s First Love, Syrie is giving away five prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!

JAFL Grand Prize x 420

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment here at Jane Austen in Vermont, or on any of the other blog stops on the Jane Austen’s First Love Holiday Blog Tour: http://www.syriejames.com/LatestNewsPageNEW.php

Increase your chances of winning by visiting multiple stops along the tour! Syrie’s unique guest posts will be featured on a variety of subjects, along with fun interviews, spotlights, excerpts, and reviews of the novel. Contest closes at 11:59pm PT, December 21, 2014. Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments on the tour, and announced on Syrie’s website on December 22, 2014. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents. Good luck to all!

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Announcing Giveaway Winner! ~ Syrie James’ Jane Austen’s First Love

Jane Austens First Love by Syrie JamesHappy to announce the winner of the book giveaway for Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James!

schilds, who wrote on August 18:

“How did you find such wonderful letters? I love reading letters from the past. The style is so beautiful. It makes you see the reality of their time.”

Please email me within the next 36 hours with your contact info and the book will be posted to you directly from the publisher – with many thanks to Berkley for the giveaway.

Thank you Syrie for your wonderful post on these Fanny Bridges’ letters – and all your responses to the comments. Sending you very best wishes for the success of this, your latest book – I wonder what is next on your writing desk?!

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Reminder: Book Giveaway!! ~ Syrie James’ Jane Austen’s First Love

Jane Austens First Love by Syrie James

Just a reminder about the giveaway for Syrie James’s newest book, Jane Austen’s First Love. I am extending the deadline for another week, through the holiday weekend until Tuesday September 2, 2014, with the winner announced Wednesday September 3. Please either comment on this post or the original post where Syrie wrote about Lady Bridges’ letters on her daughters’ marriages – one of those daughters, Elizabeth, married Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen (later Austen-Leigh). (Sad to say, Elizabeth died at the age of 35 shortly after the birth of her eleventh child). These letters from Lady Bridges to her friend tell the tale of the desire to marry one’s daughters well – not unlike Mrs. Bennet!

Syrie’s new book is about Jane Austen’s acquaintance with Edward Taylor whom she met while visiting the Bridges’s home at Goodnestone Park in Kent. It is the imagined story of Jane Austen’s first love, based on extensive research. Syrie’s previous books on Jane Austen have been first class entertainments as she has taken us into the Regency world we all so love to visit! – and I highly recommend this new work, where we have real-life and fiction so beautifully intertwined.

Please comment or ask Syrie a question either here or on the previous post:

https://janeausteninvermont.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/guest-post-syrie-james-on-jane-austens-first-love-goodnestone-park-and-the-bridges-family/

Syrie James 72 dpiAbout the Author: Syrie James, hailed by Los Angeles Magazine as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings,” is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen (“A literary feast for Anglophiles”—Publisher’s weekly), The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (named one of the best first novels of the year by Library Journal), and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (Audie Award, Romance 2011; Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association). Syrie’s books have been translated into eighteen languages. She is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and a life member of JASNA. Follow Syrie on twitter, visit her on facebook, and learn more about her and her books at syriejames.com.

Best of luck in the giveaway – You have until September 3rd!

 

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Guest Post ~ Syrie James on Jane Austen’s First Love, Goodnestone Park, and the Bridges Family ~ and Book Giveaway!

Just a reminder about the giveaway for Syrie James’s newest book, Jane Austen’s First Love. I am extending the deadline for another week, through the holiday weekend until Tuesday September 2, 2014, with the winner announced Wednesday September 3. See below for Giveaway details!

Gentle Readers: I welcome Syrie James today with a post on a bit of her background research for her new book Jane Austen’s First Love. Syrie has based her tale on the real-life Edward Taylor, mentioned by Austen in her letters – he may have been her never-forgotten First Love and hence perhaps a model for her very own Mr. Darcy. Syrie’s previous books on Jane Austen have been first class entertainments as she has taken us into the Regency world we all so love to visit – and I highly recommend this new work, where we have real-life and fiction so beautifully intertwined. – see details at the end of the post on how to win a copy of your own…

Jane Austens First Love by Syrie James

Letters From Lady Bridges on the Engagements of Her Three Daughters

By Syrie James

 

“It is certainly a very singular instance of good fortune in One Family, that 3 Girls, almost unknown, should have attach’d to themselves three Young Men of such unexceptionable Characters.” —Lady Bridges of Goodnestone Park, July 10, 1791  

Sir Brook Bridges and Lady Bridges

The above was written by Lady Bridges, the former Fanny Fowler, wife of Sir Brook Bridges, 3rd Baronet of Goodnestone Park in Kent. Lady Bridges had eleven children including Elizabeth Bridges, who married Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen in December, 1791. That year must have been a very busy and happy one for the Bridges family, as sisters Elizabeth and Fanny became engaged within weeks of each other, and another sister Sophia became engaged a few months later—an unusual occurrence in any family at any time, as Lady Bridges gleefully notes. 

This remarkable circumstance in the Bridges family is one of several things which inspired me to write my novel, JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE. The book takes place during the summer of 1791, when fifteen-year-old Jane visits the Bridges family to join in a month of festivities celebrating their daughters’ engagements. While at Goodnestone Park, Jane meets and falls in love with devilishly handsome Edward Taylor, heir to the nearby, ancestral estate of Bifrons. Edward Taylor is a real person who Jane adored in her youth, as mentioned in several of her letters to her sister Cassandra—references that made me eager to learn more about him, and to write about their relationship. 

Goodnestone in late 18th century

During my research, I uncovered a trove of information about the remarkable Edward Taylor and his family which was previously unknown to Austen biographers. He spent much of his youth living and traveling abroad, and was extremely well-read and accomplished, qualities which must have greatly appealed to the young Jane. Learning all this was exciting, and it helped me to bring him to life in my novel accurately and in vivid detail.

Another Austen fact that inspired JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE is that in 1791, Jane wrote a comedic short story, The Three Sisters, featuring characters named Fanny and Sophia. I felt certain that Jane visited Kent that summer, where she not only met the young ladies who inspired that story, but also met and became enamored of Edward Taylor—and that her experiences there greatly shaped her views forever after regarding love and marriage. 

During my research for the book, I was excited to come upon three letters which Lady Bridges wrote in 1791, announcing the engagement of her daughters Elizabeth, Fanny, and Sophia. The letters are little gems, providing us with a glimpse of that family’s history. Here are the letters in their entirety:

LETTER #1

To Mrs. Fielding, St. James’ Palace, London.

Goodnestone: (March 2, 1791)

MY DEAR MRS. FIELDING, 

Elizabeth Bridges

Elizabeth Bridges

I cannot leave to my Daurs the pleasure of informing you of an Event that gives us the greatest satisfaction. We had for some time observed a great attachment between Mr. Austin (Mr. Knight’s Relation) and our dear Elizth; and Mr. Knight has, in the handsomest manner, declared his entire approbation of it; but as they are both very young, he wish’d it not to take place immediately, and as it will not suit him to give up much at present, their Income will be small, and they must be contented to live in the Country, which I think will be no hardship to either party, as they have no high Ideas, and it is a greater satisfaction to us than if she was to be thrown upon the world in a higher sphere, young and inexperienced as she is. He is a very sensible,  amiable young man,  and I trust and hope there is every prospect of Happiness to all parties in their union. This Affair has very much agitated Sir B., and he has not been quite so well for some days past as he had been for a month before; but now it is decided he will, I make no doubt, be better again in a few days, but I have long observed that when his mind has been agitated he has had a return of cough and oppression. He has sent his case to Bath, and if he is encouraged to go there, we shall set out according to the time pointed out from thence, as he has desired to know when the Waters have most efficacy. Fatty is so good (as) to stay with my Girls during our absence, or I should be much distress’d at leaving them so long. She has been pretty well, upon the whole, ever since she has been here, and in remarkable good Looks and Spirits.

Adieu, my dearest Mrs. Fielding. All here unite with me in kindest love and compts: as due. My Daurs desire their duty to you.

Believe me ever yours affectionately, F. B.

 

[NOTES: “F.B” is Lady Bridges, whose Christian name was Fanny, the same as her eldest daughter. “Sir B” is Sir Brook, her husband. “Fatty” was Isabella, sister of Mrs. C. Fielding’s husband. A popular woman, she was known all her life as Fatty Fielding, and often visited at Goodnestone Park and Godmersham Park.]

edward-austen-knight

Edward Austen Knight

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LETTER #2

Goodnestone: (March 28, 1791)

 

MY DEAR MRS. FIELDING, 

I flatter myself you are so truly interested in the welfare of my dearest children, that I am not afraid of being troublesome in writing again so soon, but must inform you that my dearest Fanny has received an offer of Marriage from Mr. Lewis Cage, a Gentleman of this County of an unexceptionable good character. His proposal has our entire approbation. As you was so kind to express a wish to be acquainted with Mr. Austin, I inform’d him of it, in consequence of which he call’d at St. James’s, and was very much disappointed he was not so fortunate to find you at home, as his Time would not permit him to make a Second Attempt; indeed, I should be quite happy that your two future Nephews should be known to you, and I hope it will not be long before they have an opportunity of being introduced. My Daughters are going to-morrow to Godmersham for a Week; I do not accompany them, as Mr. Bridges is here. Sir Brook continues charmingly well, and is in very good spirits. I hope we shall get a glimpse of you as we pass through town to Bath the middle of next month, tho’ our stay will be very short. How is Miss Finch? I hope much recovered since she left Margate. I am quite delighted to hear such good accounts of Augusta,  and hope she feels no remains of her severe Illness, but that she and all the rest of your Family are well. All here unite with me in kindest Love to you all.

Believe me, ever yours affectionately, F. B.

[NOTES: “Miss Finch” was probably one of Mrs. Fielding’s three sisters. “Augusta Sophia” was the youngest daughter of Mrs. Fielding.]

A close-up of Goodnestone in Austen's Day

A close-up of Goodnestone in Austen’s Day

 

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LETTER #3

Brock St., Bath: (July 10, 1791)

MY DEAR MRS. FIELDING, 

After having wrote to you so lately you will be no doubt surprized at hearing again so soon, and not less so to find that the Cause of my addressing myself to you is to inform you that we have received proposals of Marriage from Mr. William Deedes for your God-daughter, our dear Sophia. He is a young Man of a very Amiable Disposition and universally beloved, and his Father has been so kind to approve his Choice. I hope it will meet with your approbation, and think she bids as fair to be happy with her Connection as her sisters with theirs. It is certainly a very singular instance of good fortune in One Family, that 3 Girls, almost unknown, should have attach’d to themselves three Young Men of such unexceptionable Characters, and I pray to God that their future conduct will ever do Credit to their Choice. Mr. William Deedes is gone with Mr. Knight on the Scotch Tour; he had been long engaged to accompany them, but did not choose to set out on so long an excursion till he had explain’d himself. As I have many letters to write I will not obtain you longer than to beg our best Love and good wishes to you and all your dear Family, and kind Compliments to Lady Charlotte and Miss Finch.

Believe me, ever affectionately yours,
F. B.

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Goodnestone Park today

Goodnestone Park today

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If you’d like to read more about my research for JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE, please visit my guest post on Austenprose. You’ll find more images of Goodnestone Park and its lovely gardens in my guest post on Laura’s Reviews. I hope you enjoyed Lady Bridges’s letters, and I hope you love JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST LOVE!

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Syrie James 72 dpi

About the Author: Syrie James, hailed by Los Angeles Magazine as “the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings,” is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen (“A literary feast for Anglophiles”—Publisher’s weekly), The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (named one of the best first novels of the year by Library Journal), and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (Audie Award, Romance 2011; Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association). Syrie’s books have been translated into eighteen languages. She is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and a life member of JASNA. Follow Syrie on twitter, visit her on facebook, and learn more about her and her books at syriejames.com.

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Thank you Syrie for sharing those wonderful letters with us – a perfect example of the marriage market of the late 18th century – such a happy year for these parents in 1791! And how interesting that you discovered these letters in your research into Edward Taylor. Readers, please either comment or ask Syrie a question about her new book and you will be entered into a giveaway for a copy of Jane Austen’s First Love.

Deadline is Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 11:59 pm (EST) – winner will be announced September 3rd. Limited to US residents, sorry to say – and with hearty thanks to the publisher Berkley for the giveaway.

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UPDATE:

I add this comment here from Janine Barchas who wished to send this along to Syrie James: the cover of a Mansfield Park (Philadelphia, circa 1900) with the image of Fanny Brydges as seen above. Thank you Janine for sharing this – always nice to bring Mansfield Park into the mix whenever possible!

MP1900-Barchas

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont; text and images courtesy of Syrie James, with thanks.

Jane Austen’s First Love Virtual Book Launch Party & Blog Tour with Author Syrie James, & Giveaways

Syrie James on her new novel “Jane Austen’s First Love” – don’t miss out on the giveaways from Austenprose and others on the Blog Tour! Can’t wait to read this – Love Syrie James’ books!

Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

JAFL blog tour banner x 500

I am very pleased to welcome author Syrie James to Austenprose today to officially open her virtual book launch party and blog tour of Jane Austen’s First Love, published by Berkley Trade. This new Austenesque novel is a fascinating combination of fact and fiction, exploring the first romance of fifteen year-old Jane Austen with the handsome and sophisticated Edward Taylor. 

Syrie has generously offered a guest blog sharing her inspiration to write her new book—and to add to the festivities—we will be offering an amazing selection of giveaways including: trade paperback copies of Jane Austen’s First Love, a muslin tote bag stuffed with Jane Austen goodies, and a specially commissioned painting inspired by the novel. Just leave a comment following this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all. 

Please join us in welcoming Syrie James.

The inspiration for my…

View original post 1,453 more words

Winner of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James…

… and the winner is: Dianna Anderson who commented on January 15:

I would love to comment on a book I’ve read but sadly I haven’t, but I would love to. If I were to win a book though I could easily read it and email a question later. :-)

 

Congratulations Dianna! – please email me your contact information and the book shall be sent to you right away.  And after you have read it, we hope you shall comment!

And thank you all for your comments and to Syrie James for her great post about JASNA.

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James

 

 

Guest Post and Giveaway ~ Syrie James on The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie JamesSyrie James has been touring the blog world since the launch of her latest book The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen on December 31, 2012 – she started at Austenprose and has hit most of the Austen-related blogs out there (see below), each with a different guest post about her writing, research, travels, and love of Jane Austen.  So I am thrilled to welcome Syrie here today to Jane Austen in Vermont, where she gives us a little history of her association with JASNA. [See below for giveaway instructions!]

I first met Syrie at the AGM in Fort Worth [along with her very own Mr. Darcy!], an honor for me as I had dearly loved The Memoirs of Jane Austen – I thought she captured very well the life and voice of Austen and her time.  In The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, she takes us again into this Austen world, offering up the most intriguing tale and what we all wish for: a missing manuscript, missing letters, missing anything from our favorite illusive author.  And in Missing Manuscript, we have two books for the price of one – a delightful tale within a tale that gives us a lost Austen novel titled The Stanhopes, based in part on Austen’s own “Plan of a Novel” *, and the contemporary tale of the young woman who discovers the letter that leads her to the manuscript.

I loved this book! – Syrie has given us a story that would make Jane Austen proud and a fine taste of what such a real find might offer us (with of course the caveat that no one is really like Jane Austen…)  [An Interesting Aside: I have been reading Trollope’s Barchester Towers, wherein we have a story of a vicar who is suffering from the loss of his parish, as well as a family named the Stanhopes!  I asked Syrie if she had any of this in her mind when she was writing – she said she has never read any Trollope and had no idea! Another example of the “collective unconscious” at work in mysterious ways! – and I struggling to keep my Stanhopes straight!]  So I highly recommend this book – a perfect winter read to curl up with – you will find endearing characters, sly allusions to Austen’s life and works that make this a bit of a treasure hunt, two love stories (who can resist!), and storytelling at its best.

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Syrie, I have been badgering you and Diana (Birchall) to come to visit us in person in Vermont, to perform any and all of your now famous plays – “The Austen Assizes” in Brooklyn was a great romp filled with Austen’s baddies, and by all accounts your performance of Diana’s play You are Passionate, Jane was a rousing hit [links to a few bits of both on youtube are below].  We look forward to another such performance in Montreal for the Mansfield Park AGM 2014 where you will finally be close enough to Vermont for me to entice you to stop in! – In the meantime, this blog visit shall have to do…

So please welcome Syrie as she discusses how important the Jane Austen Society of North America [JASNA:  www.jasna.org] is to her and how it has helped her writing career.

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JASNA header

JASNA has become such an important part of my life. Interestingly, I hadn’t even heard of the organization until The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen came out. Following a suggestion from my readers, I checked it out and discovered that a spring meeting of JASNA-SW (my local Southwest chapter) was being held at the UCLA faculty club, which isn’t far from where I live. I signed up to go, having no idea what to expect. I arrived at the luncheon not knowing a soul—and to my surprise and delight found I was surrounded by remarkable, like-minded people from all different professions, all bound together by their love of literature in general and Jane Austen’s works in particular. Many of them had already read my novel. Talk about finding “my people”! The agenda was packed with interesting speakers and included an activity that to me was to die for: an excursion to the UCLA research library where we were allowed to view a first edition of Pride and Prejudice. I was hooked for life.

I attended my first JASNA AGM (Annual General Meeting) that fall in Chicago. An AGM is truly Jane Austen Heaven, with an emporium selling Austen-related goodies, and four days of sessions, speakers, special interest activities, dance lessons, and entertainment all related in some way to the Regency era or Austen’s books, culminating with a Regency Ball where everyone dresses in period attire. Since then, my husband and I have attended nearly every AGM (we plan our vacation schedules around wherever the next conference happens to be). Some attendees dress in period attire, and since I like to sew and love costumes, it’s a treat to have an excuse to don a Regency gown and bonnet!

syrie-and-bill-james-at-the-regency-ball-jasna-ft-worth-2011-x-350

 Syrie and Bill James in full regalia
2011 Fort Worth AGM cLaurel Ann Nattress

The organization has been a tremendous help to my writing. I learn so much at the breakout sessions, both at the AGMs and local chapter meetings. Just as one example, at the AGM in Fort Worth in 2011, there was a session on transportation in the Regency era. I learned about the types of carriages used, how the system of changing horses worked throughout England, and how long such trips might take—all of which enhanced my own research and was valuable when I wrote the traveling scenes in The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen. 

JASNA has also been a wonderful boon to my career. My local chapter is very supportive of my work, inviting me to do readings from my books (attendance at the meetings ranges from 65-160 people) and arranging for me to sign books at their booth at the annual L.A. Times Festival of Books. I’ve made so many friends through JASNA—many of whom live in far flung states and in England, Canada, and Australia—who I look forward to seeing once a year at the AGM.

I was the keynote speaker for a JASNA Boise Idaho’s Jane Austen tea, which made for a delightful wintry trip and forged lifelong friendships. The book launch and signing for Jane Austen Made Me Do It, an anthology edited by Laurel Ann Nattress to which I contributed an Austen-themed short story, was held at the 2011 AGM (and was great fun). At the meeting in Brooklyn last October, fellow author Diana Birchall and I co-wrote and presented a comedic play “The Austen Assizes” which was voted the #1 breakout session of the entire conference. (Highlights reel here). The committee hosting the Montreal AGM in 2014 recently commissioned us to write an original play for the plenary audience, and we couldn’t be more delighted. Diana and I have performed her comedic two-woman play “You Are Passionate, Jane” (where Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë meet in heaven) for two JASNA chapters (highlights video here)—fulfilling my dream to play Jane Austen on stage!

As you can see, I can’t stop talking (or writing) about JASNA! For anyone who enjoys Austen’s works, I highly recommend that you join!

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Syrie JamesAuthorPhoto2011 - Credit William JamesSyrie James is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed novels, including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, Dracula My Love, Nocturne, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: Songbird and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages. In addition to her work as a novelist, she is a screenwriter, a member of the Writers Guild of America, and a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She lives with her family in Los Angeles, California. Connect with her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

You can follow Syrie’s Blog tour here: 

Gala Online Launch Party at austenprose.com!

My Jane Austen Book Club: Syrie James Discusses Why Jane Austen Captures Her Writing Imagination

Austen Authors: Syrie James celebrates The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen -–book launch and giveaway!

Historical-Fiction.com: Syrie James on Her Writing and Travels

RT Book Reviews: Syrie James Channels Jane Austen

Fresh Fiction: Syrie James | The challenges of the writing process

Risky Regencies: How Did You Research The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen?

Austenesque Reviews

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Information on joining JASNA is at their website: http://jasna.org/membership/index.html  – like Syrie, you may discover there is a regional group close to you – there are over 70 regions in the US and Canada – the lists for each are here:

For the manuscript of “Plan of a Novel” – visit Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts

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Giveaway of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen! please either ask Syrie a question or comment on your favorite Syrie James book (and why) to be entered into the random drawing for a copy of The Missing Manuscript – worldwide eligibility.  Deadline: Monday January 21, 2013 11:59 pm – winner will be announced on Tuesday January 22nd.

Thank you all, and Thank You Syrie for posting here today!

Jane Austen AGM ~ Day 2 Recap: Auden, Castles, Henry the Hero, Dancers, & Gothic Art

Portland AGM – Day Two ~ I first refer to Laurel Ann’s post at Austenprose for her take on Day 2 – we did a lot together, but also tried to attend different break-out sessions –  so here is a quick summary of my day two: I should start this by saying something about my love of Northanger Abbey – it took me few readings, over a few years, but now I count it as one of my favorites, Catherine an engaging heroine and Henry quite to-die-for and Austen more on her game than she is often given credit for – you can read this former post about my thoughts on NA, rather than repeat all that – but just wanted to emphasize how much I was looking forward to this AGM and it most certainly exceeded my expectations!

I was completely bummed that I had to miss the Team Tilney offering headed by Maggie “‘Da Man” Sulllivan and thankfully Laurel Ann shared the happenings with me – I had to go off to a THREE hour [yikes!] regional coordinator training session, which was great – some new people, some old friends, some great new ideas – Claire Bellanti, VP of Regions gave an inspiring meeting – and we all left with plans for new programs and ways to connect with each other in our varying attempts to bring Jane Austen into the lives of the folks in our respective regions.  Claire had us all introduce the person next to us and we each had to share what book, other than of course any Austen, we would want with us if stranded on a desert island – interesting responses [perhaps a future post]!

After a quick lunch with Laurel Ann, we headed into the official AGM opening, hearing President Marsha Huff on her love of Northanger Abbey; the JAS Secretary Maureen Stiller who spoke of the loss this year of two great Austen scholars Elizabeth Jenkins and Brian Southam; and Steve Lawrence from Chawton House Library and Joan Ray thanking members for their generosity to the NAFCHL [North American Friends of Chawton House Library] –

and then on to the Plenary speaker Stephanie Barron, noted  author of the Jane Austen mysteries, on Suspicious Characters, Red Herrings, and Unreliable Detectives: Elements of Mystery in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey – a delightful talk on the mystery elements in Austen, a crime in every novel, the heroine as solver, the detectives and pseudo-detectives, and the final restoration of order.  Barron quotes W. H. Auden and his three requirements of a mystery novel, all present in Austen’s works: a closed society; a state of innocence with the “crime” committed by a fallen member of the society; and the societal ritual that the criminal has knowledge of in order to commit the crime, but is overcome by one of superior knowledge who restores order [thankfully!] –  Barron then applies this pattern to Northanger Abbey – the investigators, the clues, the red herrings – Henry as the consummate detective, Catherine as ignoring the clues, Isabella the dropper of clues, John Thorpe as the red herring, General Tilney as the fallen one – with Henry finally restoring order, Catherine all the while gaining understanding of the male world, “penetrating the veil” as in all good gothic novels.  Barron ended her talk with a comment on the Kathryn Sutherland kerfuffle about one’s editors [you can read more about it here], a reference to her short story to be part of Laurel Ann’s Jane Austen short story anthology Jane Made Me Do It [we all whooped! Laurel Ann swooned!], and answered some questions on her latest book Jane Austen and the Madness of Lord Byron – she spoke about following Austen’s chronological real life in the writing of her fictional mystery series, and oh! what will happen in 1817.  All in all quite a wonderful introduction to this year’s AGM!

Then off to the first of many break-out sessions – and what a task to choose! – each session offering such variety and depth – the choice so difficult – I decided to do at least one on the gothic literary features of NA, one on fashion and all that muslin, and of course, something on Henry Tilney.  So my first was to hear the ever interesting Janine Barchas on The Real Bluebeard of Bath: A Historical Model for Northanger Abbey a brilliant tour through the nightmarish history of the Farley-Hungerford Castle, within driving distance form Bath, and a place that Austen would likely have visited or known about in her time in Bath. Professor Barchas shared the words in a contemporary guidebook, Richard Warner’s Excursions from Bath [1801], a book known to have been in George Austen’s library and containing Jane’s marginalia – and here we have some real-life gothic tales about what went on in Farley Castle and may have served as Austen’s inspiration for her own Abbey story, truth of course being far more bizarre than fiction!

Then off to see Stephanie Eddleman on “Henry Tilney: Austen’s Feminized Hero?” – One of the things that can get my dander up in a discussion about NA is talk that Henry is too feminine to be a true hero, or too condescending to be an equal lover to Catherine, or too distant as a character to engage the reader – so I was hoping that Prof. Eddleman would give me much needed ammunition! – and she did indeed:  Henry as the one hero who stands apart – he is her only witty hero; he is feminized but not feminine, and unlike Austen’s other feminized male characters [Frank Churchill, Robert Ferrars], Austen is not critical of Henry.  I most appreciated Eddleman’s answer to Marvin Mudrick’s contention that Henry is a detached, disengaged character – she feels that Henry develops intimacy through his intelligence and wit, always encouraging Catherine toward her own independent thinking.  I hope this talk will be in Persuasions – it gives much needed support for Henry as True & Worthy Austen Hero.

With all these great thoughts swimming around in my head, off we ran to the Portland Art Museum for the General Reception with the Wild Rose Garland Dancers – we arrived slightly behind schedule and found long lines for food and drink – Laurel Ann off for food, I did drinks – the long line frustration only lessened by a gentleman who told me all about his breakout session by James Nagle on “Dismemberment in the Library with the Quill Pen” – all about Regency succession rules, primogeniture, entails, etc. – Laurel Ann also went to this, so between the two of them I felt as though I had not missed this obviously interesting and entertaining talk – so this made the line move – we ate and drank and stood for the dancers as there was not a seat in sight – the dancers quite lovely and great fun to watch – here are a few pictures [with apologies for the dark and motion]:

Wild Rose Garland Dancers

the woman who would not sit down

The Dancers and the Players

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Sneakers- for my son

Player Gerhardt Quast on his Bodhron

[with thanks for letting me take a picture of his sneakers for my son!]

Next to me, however, was a woman who said she was sorely distracted by the distant statue of a rather large naked man [rear view only] – pictures duly taken, much laughter around and we were lost in the giggles for the rest of the evening [too much wine perhaps and not enough food?] – I see that Laurel Ann posted on this and the woman left a comment, so we are glad to have found her – and send you thanks Brenda for making our evening! – not that the dancers were not fabulous – we were just giddy at this point and who could resist!

 I regret not taking more photos of the museum offerings – I see that Diana Birchall has several on her blog – so I send you over there for a peak to Light Bright and Sparkling.  And you can view the Museum website as well.

And then the evening not nearly over – back to the hotel for the author book signings and to hear Jeff Nigro’s talk on Mystery Meets Muslin: Regency Gothic Dress in Art, Fashion and the Theatre.”  Jeff is the new RC for the Chicago Region and had spoken at that AGM two years ago on Art – so here again, another interesting visual treat about art and fashion and the literary and theatrical world of Austen’s time – I am not sure I will ever look at the art of the period the same ever again, or at least trust what I am looking at! – I am not even sure I can understand my notes! – so much information in this talk! – the mixing and matching of styles in the historical and contemporary works of art, with an emphasis on the “Gothick Picturesque”, the eclectic Regency gothic – Nigro shows that Austen’s Northanger Abbey is itself an eclectic mix, an overlapping of genres, as encompassed in both the Thomson and Brock illustrations. This was such a visual tour, one must see it to appreciate it, and not well described without the visual piece to accompany it – I would dearly love to get Jeff to visit Vermont and share his love of the arts with us…

So Day Two –who knew that just sitting around and absorbing all things Austen could be so invigorating and exhausting!  I will add this – hanging out with Laurel Ann had many perks! – the book she is editing involves a number of great Austenesque authors who have each contributed a story to the anthology [see Austenprose for details] – but while I have been attending AGMs for a number of years and was happy to introduce Laurel Ann to a number of JASNA people [and as soon as they understood she is the force behind Austenprose they all nearly genuflected!] – but her contacts with her authors was a treat for me to be introduced and spend some time with them as well – I have a few pictures of them and append them here with links to their sites – great writers all who embrace Austen in their own imaginative ways – I look forward to Laurel Ann’s book publication [alas! not until next October – just in time for the Fort Worth AGM!] – so thank you Laurel Ann for this – great fun all around!

Syrie James, Laurel Ann Nattress, and Cindy Jones

Syrie James and her husband Bill were a delight to meet – she costumed every day and he for the ball [will save the elaborate ball dress for tomorrow!] – Syrie has authored The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte [we bonded on a mutual love of Jane Eyre], and Dracula, My Love [on my TBR pile -I hear it is great!]  Visit her website here.

Cindy Jones has a new book coming out [March 29, 2011] My Jane Austen Summer: A Season at Mansfield Park – we had a great chat and I look forward to reading her book – please visit her blog at First Draft to learn more about her and her forthcoming  book. Cindy is also blogging at the new Austen Author’s blog.

Marsha Huff, Laurel Ann Nattress, Laurie Viera Rigler

Marsha Huff is, of course, JASNA President – this is her last AGM as head of the troops, and she has now passed on the torch to Iris Lutz from the Tucson Region – it has been a wonderful four years with Marsha and we will miss her – but I don’t think she will wander very far from the activities!  In this picture, she has just given Laurel Ann her JASNA Life Member pin! – so congrats to Laurel Ann on this!

Laurie Viera Rigler needs no introduction, but you can view her website here and her blog here – always a sheer pleasure to spend time with Laurie – but alas! no gossip on her next book – we must content ourselves for now with her “Sex and the Austen Girl” creations [such a punishment…]

And I will close with another fashionista picture of Rebecca Morrison-Peck, one of the Emporium vendors – you can visit her shop at Etsy here:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/thethatchedcottage, where you will find all manner of Regency fashion pieces.  I was quite disappointed to try on two lovely spencers – one too large, the other too small – so will wait for another day to adorn myself – I purchased a Regency dress pattern three years ago , and that is as far as I have gotten – my Singer retains its dust and I think I should just give in and buy something from one of these far more talented mantuamakers!

Rebecca Morrison-Peck - The Thatched Cottage

Vic, who we sorely missed and hope one of these days to meet at an AGM, has posted links on her Jane Austen Today blog to several of the AGM posts already out there – so check out the thoughts and pictures of everyone else! … and finally,

Stay-tuned for tomorrow, Day Three and the Ball fashions! – I think this was the most costumed AGM yet!

Another view…The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

I’ve mentioned before (see review of Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma) that I am no lover of sequels; yet these past few months have brought many to my bedside table and the pile is slowly being depleted (in an effort to be somewhat prepared for the October JASNA AGM)…Syrie James’ The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen was a most enjoyable task in this journey of mine.  My co-blogger, Janeite Kelly, and I don’t see eye to eye on this book (see her review ), and I just needed to say a few words from the other side of the inkwell…

The Lost Memoirs should head its own category of “Fictionalizing Jane Austen’s Life.”  Like Becoming Jane, James also gives us a fictional tale of Jane’s lost love, this time, not her girlish love of Tom LeFroy, but her mature love, the “mystery man” that Jane met at the seaside as per Cassandra’s brief mention to her niece Caroline, and hence we have a lovely piece of romantic fluff, giving the reader along the way all sorts of references from Austen’s letters and a storyline that harkens back to the novels (and alas! sometimes even footnoted for your edification!) and the many biographies.

James’ knowledge shines throughout- she obviously knows her Austen- she says herself in the Author’s Note, that despite all her efforts to suggest this is the real “lost memoir” of Austen, indeed it is not- only a fiction derived from her Austen-obsessed imagination.  All of us who read and study Austen have always wanted the Jane who wrote such brilliant love stories to have had that experience herself.  Cassandra’s grand conflagration and excising much in those letters that survived, created a literary future for her sister of so much speculation and theory- certainly, we believe, everything that was destroyed would answer all our questions…

So James has done for us, as she says herself, much like the gift we were given in Shakespeare in Love – a tiny glimpse into the author’s life that indeed explains almost EVERYTHING that comes after.  She creates the story of that mystery man and names him Frederick Ashford; we meet him (appropriately in the third chapter) saving Austen from a fall off the infamous steps at the Cobb in Lyme Regis…. we are thus swept into Persuasion with names and incident (and Frederick is, of course, in a DARK BLUE coat, not the dreaded “light” coat of Tom LeFroy…)  We hear Austen in this first person narrative speaking the words as they appear in her letters and novels (this reader does question if there is anything original here!).  We see characters appear with names similar to her fictions:  Mrs. Jenkins (Mrs. Jennings in S&S); Charles Churchill (Emma), married to Maria (MP, though she behaves like Mary in Persuasion and then slips into Isabella-mode from NA); Charles’s sister Isabella Churchill (from NA who falls for the scoundrel Wellington [a.k.a. Captain Tilney, but who morphs into Willoughby from S&S])…have I lost you yet??  there is plenty more…. Ashford’s home in Derbyshire is called Pembroke Hall, and the almost exact scene is played out as Lizzy in P&P  visiting Pemberley; Mr, Morton is Mr. Collins right down to the bizarre marriage proposal…the list goes on, this constant weaving of fact and fiction- the family history; life in Bath, Southampton and lastly Chawton; Austen’s writing habits; publishing history; the Bigg-Wither proposal; her niece’s request for help with her writing; Austen’s love of nature and walking (rhapsodizing about a tree as Fanny does in MP); her reading of Udolpho in two days “my hair standing on end the whole time” (Henry in NA); her views on novel-reading (the letters and NA); Austen’s own obsession with fashion and “trimmings” — all are blended together seamlessly. 

But this is the story of Jane and Frederick, their meeting, falling in love and how that changes their lives (no spoilers here!)… James gives us the story of Sense & Sensibility, as it may have occurred in Austen’s own life and Austen’s subsequent re-writing of the novel.  It all falls into place…if you have wondered why Austen wrote nothing in her Bath years, why there are such gaps in correspondence, James creates for us a delightful fiction and a love interest who is part Darcy, part Edward Ferrars, part Wentworth (“you pierce my soul”), a bit of Colonel Brandon (he is soooo old…) and Knightley all rolled into one perfect fellow…who could want for more?

If you are not a certified “Janeite,” you will find this a fine romance; but if you know Austen like James does (i.e you can recite verbatim and by page number everything she ever said or wrote!), then you will marvel at this confection filled with so many facts, so much speculation, and so much of Austen’s fiction…you will have a fun time reading it and seeing all this together in one place!  I offer only one caveat:  by creating this grand illusion (“if I believe in your story as you have told it, then it is as good as if it were true?”), James conjures up a fine tale, but there is nothing of Austen’s turn of phrase, or humor or characterization that keeps us returning again and again to her writings, just a sort of pale carbon copy, a re-telling of all, mashed together in a fictional blender… but I shook this off and stepped back a bit and just offer high marks to Syrie James for bringing Austen into our life; this book is like the movie adaptations that are so far from the original source, but we like them all the same, and it might just send you scurrying back to your bookshelves for another Austen re-read!

3 full inkwells…(out of 4)