Time Traveling with Jane Austen in Connecticut

I welcome today JASNA member Janeite Bonnie, as she offers us the tale of her time-travel adventure at Jane Austen Summer Camp, sponsored by the JASNA-Connecticut Region on July 26-28, 2013. Bonnie was, alas! without a working camera, and it is with thanks that I use fellow camper Tess Quinn’s photographs!  [Tess is the author most recently of Pride Revisited.]

Enjoy all – so sorry I was not there – hopefully next year! [I was at the Middletown Inn a few years ago for a wedding, and I can attest to it being the perfect setting for anything to do with Jane Austen!]

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jasna-ct-summercamp-logo

I was a last-minute registrant for the Jane Austen Summer Camp, and registered for only the second half of the weekend, taking a miss on the workshops on Saturday morning because I had either attended similar workshops before or had skills that did not require workshops such as were offered. I drove down from VT to Middletown, CT on Saturday afternoon wondering what to expect in terms of the area in which the event took place, since such things do tend to color my experience. As I turned onto Main Street, I spied a row of 18th century clapboard houses across the street, and I thrilled to the sight. When I pulled up to the gate of the Inn at Middletown, I was immediately favorably impressed. The Inn at Middletown has the look of an early 19th century manor house, with wings, snubby portico, and miniature curved drive. When I walked inside, the Inn continued to enchant me with its central curved staircase, immense chandelier, fireplace, and patterned marble floor. The room I shared with my friend Shari was tasteful, but I barely had time to enjoy it before I had to begin my transformation into a Regency lady.

Middletown Inn-wp

 Middletown Inn [Wikipedia]

Our Saturday evening began with gathering in the second floor lobby, where alcoholic beverages were dispensed to those willing with shillings. Some faces were familiar; we have crossed paths at other JASNA, time-travel, and dance events. Most of us, I am gratified to report, were dressed in period outfits, and we exchanged compliments and admiring looks.

Dinnerbeforeball-quinn

Dinner before the Ball!

When we entered the conference room for dinner, I was pleasantly surprised to see it looking period-appropriate, too, with nicely painted woodwork, wallpaper, double-hung windows dressed up in patterned draperies, wall sconces, a boarded-up fireplace (well, it *is* summer) with a mantel and mirror above, and a sideboard in a recess with a mirror overhanging it.  Of course, I made my way to the center table so that I could have a great seat for the lecture after dinner by Irene Urban, who is known to me through Regency dance. She is a maven of Regency cookery, but more of her soon.

table-chocolate-and-fans-quinn

 Table setting

The table was dressed up with a sweet urn of colorful flowers, and everyone had gifts of a sandalwood fan and chocolates in front of her place setting. Lovely chocolates, by the way: They looked like cameos, with a milk chocolate base and a silhouette Jane Austen silhouetted in white chocolate. We started off dinner with a delicious cold soup of Lord-knows-what, but the ingredient I do remember is champagne.  More alcohol — terrific for loosening the joints and inhibitions for dancing! Everyone enjoyed their main course, too. I had already heard praise of the Inn at Middletown’s cuisine, but tasting was believing.  The presentation was also quite lovely.  Well done!

We did not enjoy a last course of dessert because that was saved for the break during the ball.  However, Irene Urban’s lecture on Regency dining was a delicious treat for the mind, and I would have willingly gone back for seconds and thirds, but it was all too quickly over, with no Q and A session.  Irene dropped tantalizing tidbits such as what was stocked in a Regency larder, including all the dead animals, which she accompanied with an etching of the same.  I would imagine that if cruel Regency parents had wanted to punish their naughty little ones, they could have locked them in a dark pantry for an hour.  Irene is not an all-talk-and-no-action lady; if you have ever attended an event with which she is connected, you are treated to period delights created from recipes that she has adapted from vague original recipes in her collection of period cookbooks.

susan-and-soldiers

Susan de Guardiola and her Soldiers

Next up was the ball, which was called by Susan de Guardiola, a Regency dance expert. The dances were simple to suit those who had never danced period dances before. The room was splendidly lit up, quite full of company, but not insufferably hot, so we were spared the trials of E. and M.  The crowd organized into two longways sets, and off we went, balancing, dos-a-dosing, slipping, turning, gazing, flirting, and attending.  I think we all acquitted ourselves rather well, and as a reward were treated to sumptuous desserts during the break, as well as the raffling off of two splendid gift baskets and several smaller gifts.

ball-everyone-quinn

Sunday’s activities began with a promenade to a local historical house museum [the General Mansfield House].  Many folks chose to dress up again, and I believe we looked fresh and charming in our day gowns, bonnets, reticules, and parasols. We gathered in the lobby, then strolled out through the front courtyard, crossed the street, and there we were.  The docent of the museum greeted us on the steps, then spent the next twenty minutes lecturing about the history of the house and its occupants while we stood, wilting.  An older woman required a chair, which my friend Shari borrowed and brought to her, and still the lecture continued!  We were finally allowed to tour the house and the grounds, which were not extensive but had a few suitable places for photo ops.

After the museum, we returned to the hotel to check out and have brunch: yummy cheese blintzes and vegetable quiche. After brunch, Dr. Mark Schenker, associate dean of Yale College, presented a lecture titled “The Richness of ‘Ordinary Life’ in Austen’s Novels”. While my author friends on either side of me scribbled away, I just sat in bliss. Dr. Schenker, while having ample notes, frequently put them down and wove witty and insightful incidental observations into his structured lecture. He is the type of speaker who leaves you glowing with happiness after you’ve been privileged to hear him.  I am embarrassed to admit that, although I

Dr. Schenker - "Is that all you can remember?!

Dr. Schenker – “Is that _really_ all you can remember?!

thoroughly enjoyed the lecture (and it made me wish that I had come for the full weekend so that I could have heard his other lecture Friday night), the only thing he said that I can quote was that he referred to Jane and Charles Bingley as the couple downstairs, the Mertzes of Jane Austen’s couples!  What a thing to remember.

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The weekend was capped with an ice cream social, the raffling off of two more marvelous gift baskets and smaller gifts, and the screening of the soon-to-be released film Austenland.  I do believe that this movie is haunting me.  I had already sat through the initial free preview for JASNA-NY members at the Sony screening room in New York and felt I had wasted two hours of my life.  I had even squeezed it into my tight schedule when it was offered because, of course, it was a one-time-only experience. However, two or three more free previews were offered after that to JASNA-NY members.  This past weekend, all the way up in mid-Connecticut I thought I could enjoy a good Austen movie with other Janeites, when, lo and behold, Austenland again popped up and put a pin in my Austen euphoria. N.B. I just received an e-mail from JASNA-NY about yet one more free preview of Austenland, to take place on Tuesday, July 30, in Manhattan!

austenland

 Austenland company

I left very glad that I had made the effort to drive for four and one-quarter hours the 260 miles from my home to the Inn at Middletown. Everyone with whom I spoke was positive about all aspects of the gathering, from the venue to the food, from the workshops to the lectures, from the ball to the gift baskets and the camp store, all were praised.  It is testament to the tremendous concerted efforts of all the organizers of this event, and I hope to see it repeated and expanded in two years.

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn? –Jane Austen

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[Note:  all pictures c2013 Tess Quinn, with thanks!, unless noted otherwise]

Further reading:

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

A Jane Austen Weekend! ~ Guest Post by Tess Quinn

Dear Readers, 

As many of you as Jane Austen in Vermont blog readers know, The Governor’s House in Hyde Park, Vermont offers Jane Austen weekends throughout the year (you can visit their website to see upcoming  events). This past August Innkeeper Suzanne B. held another of her annual Character Weekends, wherein participants are to choose an Austen character from any of her works [alas! only one of each character allowed – who could take an entire weekend with not only one but perhaps FIVE of a fawning Mr. Collins! And one chatty Miss Bates is certainly enough ….] and play the role all weekend, through all the various activities of reading, chatting, needlework, writing, eating, dancing, horse adventures, and sport [the likes of archery and fencing!] – perhaps only giving up the role for a few hours of contented sleep!

This year a full-weekend I could not do, so I went for several hours on the Saturday and had the pleasure of chatting with the various characters, practicing a bit of archery, watching fencing matches, eating a sumptuous Regency-era meal, and dancing the night away with Val and Tom of the Burlington Country Dancers.  I came home well-satisfied indeed, and in Jane’s own words,  “[I] smiled & whispered to [myself] ‘This [was] a day well spent.'” 

One of the guests was Tess Quinn, who recently wrote a post on this blog about her experience at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville – Tess has kindly offered to write another post about her weekend here in Vermont, along with many fine pictures! Thank you Tess for sharing this with us! [and it was great to see you again!]

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A fair prospect

How often have Jane Austen readers wished they could experience Regency life as her protagonists do – at least the romanticized notion of it we derive from her books?  I can’t be the only one, or there would not be such a market for the myriad books published that deal with Austen fans, disillusioned with modern society, who suddenly find themselves transplanted in time and place to inhabit the body of an Elizabeth Bennet (e.g. Lost in Austen) or some other early 19th century character – for a day, a month or an eternity.  These books and films appeal because, for a little while, they take us away from mortgage payments and term papers and our children’s math homework; they sweep us off into a world our imaginations sketch as more genteel, more polite, less frenetic – more romantic.

Yes, literary time travel has huge appeal, no matter the book genre or historical era in question.  Readers well versed in Jane Austen’s society as depicted in her books must ‘experience’ the Regency in their imaginations; for as far as I know, a working time travel machine has not yet been perfected.  We cannot practically turn the clock back two hundred years… or can we?

I recently vacationed in Vermont where we came close to doing just that!  The Governor’s House at Hyde Park formed a distinguished setting for a gathering of ladies to come together and experience Jane Austen’s era for themselves—or rather, by adopting the personas of her characters for a few days.  The Governor’s House (formerly belonging to the gentleman who provided its name, and now a bed and breakfast inn) was built in the Victorian era but as a reproduction of a Colonial house.  As such, it reflects both periods in its ambience, yet gives one enough of the ‘feel’ of bygone days to transport one’s mindset to Regency England.

Governor’s House in Hyde Park, Vermont,
the setting for a Jane Austen Character Weekend,
and the whole of the experience was delightful.

We gathered first on Friday evening for introductions, each participant in turn describing something of her background until correctly identified.  Most of the books were represented.  Present were Elizabeth Bennet and her aunt Mrs Gardiner, along with Miss Charlotte Lucas.  Anne Elliot attended in the company of her sister, Mary Musgrove and her friend, Lady Russell; as well as a recently-arrived tenant of Kellynch Hall, Mrs Croft.  Eleanor Tilney appeared quite affable in the absence of her father the General.  And Emma Woodhouse came, being in company with both her former governess, Mrs Weston and her nemesis, Mrs Elton; as well as a most entertaining trio – Miss Jane Fairfax, Miss Bates and the elder Mrs Bates, the latter making her presence felt all the weekend though she uttered not a word.

Lady Russell – Miss Tilney – Mrs Weston

Introductions accomplished, we became friends over refreshments, followed by moving to the card tables for an evening of Whist.  I was grateful to find myself at one of the less competitive tables; we did not play deep, but we laughed deeply.

At the Whist table

As most of us had travelled long that day, we retired after a few rounds, but gathered early on Saturday for breakfast in order to make the most of the day’s activities.  We began with a most excellent fencing master, Vivica Fox, who after providing us some historical information on the sport, led the group through the proper positions and stretching exercises.

Viveca Fox

Throughout the morning, then, Miss Fox gave private lessons to each of us who ventured so boldly.   The moves appear so graceful and natural when one observes accomplished fencers; but after many attempts to combine form, technique and strategy all at once in lunges, parries and ripostes, my best accomplishment was a greater appreciation for the skill and difficulty involved.  I was highly intrigued by my session, however, and would love to continue my training.

While several took advantage of the individualized fencing lessons, others of us moved to the back garden to take up bows for archery.

Archery lessons for Lady Russell and Emma Woodhouse

I am delighted (relieved) to report that a grand time was had by all, the target often was struck, and no dogs were dispatched.

Miss Fairfax, archer

The morning had begun with a fine hot sun which continued throughout our activities; fans and parasols were employed assiduously.  A number of our party, after archery, chose to retire to the shade of a large porch with their books or embroidery, rather than be kept in a continual state of inelegance.

Mary Musgrove driving Judge

But for some, a short journey to a horse farm brought the next adventure: learning to drive a gig!

The head groom very graciously allowed us to assist in harnessing Judge, an extraordinarily gentle animal (one could hardly call him a beast) – although of course, as ladies we would never perform this task for ourselves in the usual manner of things.  We then began by walking Judge around the paddock.  This was to become accustomed to working with him, especially for any of us who were no horsewomen.  Once each had achieved some comfort with the reins, a lovely small carriage was attached and off we went through a park land of varied prospects.  (I must confess that I saw little but the posterior of the horse in my turn, so concerned was I lest I steer poorly and hit a post which might have overturned us.)

Just as we bid adieu to our mount and made to leave, another group from our party arrived for a carriage ride.  We bade them a lovely tour and made our way back to the Governor’s House.  There we enjoyed a light fare set out by our hostess – since we had breakfasted so early – to tide us over until the dinner hour.

The last hours of our morning were passed again in satisfying retirement on the back porch; for as we all know, to sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.  Some ventured to trundle a hoop, or play the Graces.  Most found contentment in a cool libation and the company of clever, well-informed people who had a great deal of conversation – the best company!

Finding shade

Charlotte Lucas

Reading Jane Austen

Lawn Ladies

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Quite soon, it seemed, the time came to dress for dinner and we dispersed to don our fashions.

Mrs. Elton in full fashion!

Jane Fairfax – Mrs Bates [there in spirit!] – Miss Bates

Our repast for the evening was a full course, enlivened by so much entertaining discourse and laughter that we all remained at the table right up until the arrival of visitors who had been invited to join us for the hour of tea!   Mr and Mrs Bennet with their daughter Lydia were presented, the latter immediately pronouncing that what the party required for success was… dancing!

Of course, all were amenable to this particular proposal! Immediately, furniture was shifted and carpets rolled and removed, the music struck up and Mrs Bennet, an accomplished English Country Dance caller (sometimes peculiarly addressed as Val Medve), led us through an evening of dances with only a short ‘supper break’ to regain our breath.  Most invigorating, indeed!

When finally the night ended, few I think did not drift into sleep the moment they fell into their beds.

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A Turn about the Estate

Sunday dawned as bright and promising as had the previous day.  Following our breakfast, some of the party went off to ride, others for a lengthy turn about the estate (such prospects to enjoy) and still others preferred the sedentary nature of their work in the elegant parlour.   But soon activity called once more.

Walking Ladies

Since letters are the lifeblood of communication in the world we were visiting, we learned to cut our own quill pens and then practice our hand, writing letters on parchment.  No blotting here!  And following this, we employed our fingers in an alternative manner – in learning to tat with yet another master of the art.  I should like to boast of having made the sample you see below; but in truth I had not the talent.  My fingers did not fly through the string with anything like accomplishment.  This is indeed one art in which no excellence can be achieved without constant practice.

Instruction in tatting for Miss Lucas, Mrs Weston, and Emma

Tatting sample

Sunday noon found us gathering around the dining table for the last time together.  A lovely luncheon may have passed serenely but for the introduction of one final pastime, one perhaps not quite of the Regency period but relating to it.  It was a Quiz!  Questions to test our newly-experienced knowledge of Regency life.  Our hostess had gone to some effort to challenge us and had risen admirably to the occasion.  I would like to say we responded in kind; and so I will.  Our answers as a rule, when we discussed them collectively, were creative, humorous, clever and entertaining.  What matter if they were seldom correct?

This capstone event marked the end of our journey to Jane Austen’s time.  When we had laughed our fill, ladies slowly drifted off to supervise the packing of their trunks by their maids.  All ventured fare wells to friends old and new amid the exchange of addresses and promises to post pictures at facebook.  (Whatever can they have meant by such strange speech?)

I retired to my room as I would not leave until the following morning.  There my mind was most agreeably engaged in meditating on the very great pleasure which a gathering of fine characters from the pages of Miss Austen’s novels can bestow.

Emma Woodhouse – Lizzy Bennet

Lady Russell

Mary Musgrove – Charlotte Lucas – Mrs Elton

Miss Bates – Mrs Bates – Miss Fairfax

Miss Tilney – Mrs Croft – Miss Lucas

Sunday morning parlour

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About the Author: Tess Quinn (a nom de plume) read Pride and Prejudice years ago at the age of thirteen, and has been hooked on Jane Austen – and Mr Darcy, unsurprisingly – ever since. She has read all the novels multiple times and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. Some time ago she was introduced to Austen-based fan fiction and, unsatisfied with some of the depictions and approaches, took up her own pen to try to carry on beloved characters in a manner consistent with Miss Austen’s originals. In 2011, her first short story was published in an anthology called A Road to Pemberley. With that encouraging milestone she is hoping shortly to publish another anthology, all her own stories, tentatively titled Pride Revisited. She has two completed P&P based novels (awaiting final edits and a willing publisher); and is nearing completion on her own darling child, a retelling of P&P from Georgiana Darcy’s perspective.

Descending into dinner

Tess, in her lovely evening dress, is on the left; do you agree that Mrs. Elton is looking rather miffed?? – perhaps we have caught her unawares displaying her displeasure at not being first into the dining room …

c2012 Jane Austen in Vermont

Another First-Timer’s Take on the Louisville Jane Austen Festival!

Dear Gentle Readers: I had the pleasure of meeting Tess Quinn last year at one of the Jane Austen Weekends at the Governor’s House in Hyde Park Vermont.  Tess then told me she had published her first short story in the compilation Road to Pemberley (Ulysses Press, 2011), which lay at home, unread, and obviously waiting for this sort of impetus! – Titled “A Good Vintage Whine”,  I read it as soon as I got home and found it to be one of the more inventive of all of such stories that I have ever read… I still recall is very vividly, surely a tribute to its effect!

Tess has offered to write on her first-time visit to the Jane Austen Festival, to follow up Melody’s previous account – so here you can again visit vicariously with words and more pictures, the entire weekend – and this time we get to go to the Ball! And I do think we need to put next year’s adventure on our calendars right now! – and certainly all meet for Tea…

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The Louisville group

JANE AUSTEN FESTIVAL – LOUISVILLE, KY 21-22 JULY 2012

After hearing lovely things for the last few years about the Jane Austen Festival sponsored by the Louisville region of JASNA, I finally attended this event, the 5th Annual. Everything I had heard was not hype – this was a most delightful way to pass the weekend. The ladies and gentlemen of the Louisville chapter are commended for doing it right! Everything organized well, high quality entertainments of every variety – and fashion everywhere you looked!

Flirting on the porch

The Market

The Parlour

I attended with three fellow New York friends and we began the morning on Saturday with a stroll through the various shops of the market. (I was sorry we did not arrive soon enough for the fencing demonstration, which sadly was not repeated again during the festival, though most events were.) I was sorely tempted by many of the fashionable fabrics, bonnets, period games and trinkets – but managed to limit myself only to the purchase of some teas. Shortly afterwards, I headed off to blend my own with Julia of Bingley Teas, one of the session events available. Made a wonderfully aromatic (and quite tasty as I have since discovered) blend with black tea, roses and calendula, cranberry and apricot…and a few other additions. I am now ready to hit the markets confidently to find my own ingredients and develop my own signature blend! Following this session, I rejoined my friends for our scheduled tea time.

Tea Table

What a lovely tea it was! And how impressed was I to discover that all the china being put into service was the collection of one lady!—Bonnie Wise, the Regional Coordinator for Louisville and spearhead of this event. Truly amazing, and very gracious of her to trust us with her precious china. Our table tried several tea blends (all from the Bingley Tea line) but I must confess my favorite was “Marianne’s Passion” – it was delicious served hot, with a fruity under-taste; and even better when I later sampled it in iced tea form.

Tea-Time!

Well sated with sandwiches, scones and desserts (I agree with Melody, the lavender cake was delicious) we headed off to watch Mr Darcy undress. What better entertainment for ladies on a lazy summer afternoon! And judging by the crowd under the tent-top, I wasn’t alone in that opinion. Along the way to it we admired (and photographed) scores of wonderful Regency attire; of course, stopping to chat with ladies and gents alike about the construction of them (being a novice at making my own, I was most interested.) Brian Cushing (aka Mr Darcy) had an engaging presentation style as he peeled off his layers and his anecdotes were both humorous and instructive. A long collective chuckle rippled through the audience as he began to pull his shirt-tail out from his breeches to show us a typical shirt of the period… and it kept coming and coming. In the end it reached past his knees… as he asserted that this was one of the shorter ones of the day!

Darcy in shirtails

Now employing my fan assiduously (I shall not admit whether from the summer heat or seeing Mr Darcy’s shirt-tails! Such a fluttering came all over me!) we ventured to find a bit of shade and to capture in print our own fashions in the ‘grove’ –

Ladies of Fashion in the Grove

and then back to the presentation tent for a lecture on Sickness and Health as depicted in Austen’s novels. It was a fascinating look at various characters and their ailments and a perspective you don’t often encounter – that Mr Woodhouse, despite his annoying solicitousness of everyone’s health, was actually seldom wrong. The whole of it illustrated wondrously Jane Austen’s own extensive understanding of illness and treatments and human nature, of course. Dr. Cheryl Kinney assembled a wonderful slide show of characters, treatments, film clips and anecdotes to support her lecture. It was so well done, I determined not to miss the second lecture she would offer on Sunday. After this one, I approached Dr. Kinney to ask her opinion of the ailment of Anne DeBourgh, as it had not been raised in this presentation. And, as a P&P fanfic author who often considers it when writing, I was thrilled to learn that Dr. Kinney has an entire session on Anne DeBourgh’s ailments planned for the 2013 AGM in Minneapolis. Count me in! I will come armed with interest and questions!
Shortly after this presentation, my group retired to our B&B (a most wonderful find) to rest before readying ourselves for the ball that evening.

The Ball!

I was amazed when we arrived for the dance at the attendance and the fact that nearly the entire company was in period attire. And what fashions there were to witness – each gown finer than the last! Although the acoustics in the hall were not perfect, we had a grand time, dancing almost every dance, and laughter abounded as we made sport (of ourselves and our neighbours, of course) at trying to learn the dance steps. Shame on us for not attending the afternoon practice session. The refreshments during the interval were extensive, and I was most amazed at the competence and administration once again of the Louisville organizers – replenishments were quick and smooth – truly well executed.


We slept very well after our busy day, and got a bit of a late start on Sunday; but arrived in time for a Bare Knuckle boxing demonstration. I, of course, averted my eyes from bare-chested as well as bare knuckled combatants.

Bare-Knuckle Boxing

Following this, I enjoyed a demonstration of side-saddle riding from Ms Deborah Glidden and her assistants. The older gentleman (Bill Glidden) turned out to have spent a long career in Hollywood; he was Doug McClure’s riding double in The Virginian among other things. A few of us in the audience were of an age to recall that TV series very well.

While my friends attended tea again, I instead toured the inside of the house that Melody has already described so nicely. And in addition to the house and furnishings themselves, I truly enjoyed the fashions on display there – all part of Gayle Simmons’s collection and complete with accessories of every sort. Every room held a few ensembles, either on models or lovingly spread out on beds awaiting some young lady to prepare for a ball. Very impressive in all. Each room was manned by a volunteer to provide visitors with a short history, and the master bedroom in particular had a pair of girls who explained that they were in their parents’ room looking for a ribbon their younger brother had impishly hid from them, a particular one the older girl wanted to wear for her coming out. They stayed ‘in character’ throughout and were a delight.

Gayle Simmons Collection

There was also a lovely lady demonstrating bobbin lace making in the house. Oh, the patience required – I don’t think I’ll tackle that, but I will certainly appreciate it more when I encounter the finished item.
More fashion was to come as I attended Betsy Bashore’s fashion show in the large tent. Her creations are magnificent and all taken from either extent garments or pattern books of the era, ranging from mid-1790’s to about 1820. I learned a great deal in addition to just admiring the look – of bonnet veils, and cartridge pleats, and apron dresses and the like. And the fabrics – many of them from saris – were exquisite. It inspired me to continue with my own novice efforts. (My own gown that day included an overdress that I’d made from a $5 thrift shop tablecloth – hey! It worked!)

Tess’s day-dress

I loved all the gowns – the details in them amazing – but my favorites were this brown and cranberry silk ensemble from 1796 (coincidentally, the period I write); and this tissue-silk in a red stripe that was cut on the bias so that the striping was diagonally oriented. They both had the most delicious flow and drape when the young ladies walked. I could just imagine that taking a turn about the room in one of these would turn Caroline Bingley green with envy (as well as capture the admiring eye of Mr Darcy.)

Dr. Kinney’s lecture on Sunday was to do with Jane Austen’s illness, but encompassed so much more besides. It looked at Charles Hayden (whom JA described as something between a man and an angel) as well as Dr Matthew Baillie, a prominent physician in London. One of these two was likely the doctor that Jane Austen consulted about her failing health. The presentation also included ailments and cures of the day, a fascinating look at arsenic (if you wore green or painted your rooms with green paint you exposed yourself to the poisonous stuff), more wonderful slides and film clips as well as a hilarious video look at why we love Austen set to the tune of Connie Stevens’s “Sixteen Reasons.” Overall, another session that was entertaining, informative and engaging. (Yep, definitely looking forward next year to that session on Anne DeBourgh!)
I witnessed a duel between two gentlemen. I learned that the purportedly injured party always shot first – in this case he wounded his opponent in the shoulder. But what a small victory it turned out to be when his opponent, shooting second, killed him in return!

The Duel!

I finished the afternoon at another of the special sessions, joining a group of ladies young and old to paint a fan. After a short historical talk on fans and seeing examples of extant designs, we were off to design our own. I must admit to admiring many of those around me as they took shape (and young ladies too of about fifteen, so accomplished for their age); but my own drawing and water color talents left something to be desired. What fun it was, though – and I have just ordered some blank fans so that I can practice and eventually make one worthy of appearing at a ball. After all, we all know that no excellence in [drawing] is to be acquired, without constant practice.

Nature Drawing

Laying out clothes

Fashion Show

Despite dreadful hot days that kept us in a continual state of inelegance, this Festival was not to be missed! Picture perfect in setting, it was well attended by only the most fashionable of society; had much to offer in entertainments; and was very nicely done indeed! The 6th Annual Jane Austen Festival in Louisville is already on my calendar for next summer. Hmmm, I’d better start sewing if I’m to show well…

The gentlemen have spied some ladies…

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About the Author: Tess Quinn (a nom de plume) read Pride and Prejudice years ago at the age of thirteen, and has been hooked on Jane Austen – and Mr Darcy, unsurprisingly – ever since. She has read all the novels multiple times and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. Some time ago she was introduced to Austen-based fan fiction and, unsatisfied with some of the depictions and approaches, took up her own pen to try to carry on beloved characters in a manner consistent with Miss Austen’s originals. In 2011, her first short story was published in an anthology called A Road to Pemberley. With that encouraging milestone she is hoping shortly to publish another anthology, all her own stories, tentatively titled Pride Revisited. She has two completed P&P based novels (awaiting final edits and a willing publisher); and is nearing completion on her own darling child, a retelling of P&P from Georgiana Darcy’s perspective.

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Thank you Tess for sharing your weekend with us – I think of you and Melody passing each other various times throughout the weekend, and now connected in cyberspace! – we must all meet up next year for that cup of tea!  I wish you the best with your Pride and Prejudice writings, and look forward one day soon I hope to interviewing you about your first published novel here!

[Text and images courtesy of Tess Quinn]

c2012 Jane Austen in Vermont