Stephanie Barron Featured on NPR

Statue of King George III in Weymouth, England

Author, and friend of Austenprose, Stephanie Barron has contributed an online article in the “Three Books” series on NPR. Which books did she choose? Why Regency-era of course.

In Three Books, Two Centuries And One English Regency, Barron highlights: Seize the Fire: Heroism, Duty, And Nelson’s Battle of Trafalgar,  by Adam Nicolson; The Battle: A New History of Waterloo, by Alessandro Barbero; and Persuasion, by Jane Austen.

Stephanie is famous for her Being a Jane Austen Mystery series of ten (soon to be eleven) novels featuring Jane Austen as a sleuth. We are reading the entire series this year in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Reading Challenge 2011 right here on Austenprose. You can check out my reviews through the 8th book and other participants reviews posted here. Stephanie’s next book in the series, Jane and the Canterbury Tale, arrives next Tuesday, August 30th, 2011! We are presently reading it and are enchanted.

Stephanie’s three books are all very interesting choices to highlight an era that we all love so dearly — but, Gentle Reader, what would you have selected? Mine would have been…

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

In Memory of Jane Austen ~ July 18, 1817 (via Jane Austen in Vermont)

Deb at Jane Austen in Vermont commemorates the passing of Jane Austen 194 years ago today. R.I.P. gilder of every pleasure.

In Memory of Jane Austen ~ July 18, 1817 [I append here the post I wrote last year on this day] July 18, 1817.  Just a short commemoration on this sad day… No one said it better than her sister Cassandra who wrote I have lost a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed,- She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her, & it is as if I had lost a part of myself…” (Letters, … Read More

via Jane Austen in Vermont

Vic at Jane Austen’s World remembers Jane Austen’s life with a book giveaway of In the Garden with Jane Austen.

You can also read my previous posts of Jane Austen’s passing:

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Follow Friday: The Royal Wedding on BBC America

William and Kate Royal engagement 2010Since Jane Austen always ended her novels with a wedding or two, we thought we would be remiss if we did not mention the Royal Wedding of Catherine Middleton to HRH Prince William at Westminster Abbey in London today.  Approximately 2 billion viewers around the world will be tuning in to watch the five and a half hours of commercial free coverage being broadcast live on BBC America. We will be one of them.

For Royal watchers this will be the event of the decade and many will be setting their alarm clocks for 3:00 am Eastern and 12:00 am Pacific time here in the US to watch the glitz, glamour and the reveal of the wedding dress designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. For anyone who remembers the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and HRH Prince Charles in 1981, it is well worth the loss of sleep. No one does weddings with more pomp and style than the British. We are sure that every milliner in the UK has been laboring away on the perfect bonnet for the occasion for months.  We only wish we had planned ahead and taken the day off of work.

Lady Diana Spencer and HRH Prince Charles Royal Wedding 1981

For those who miss the live Kate and Wills action, there are bound to be re-runs and highlights shown online and on TV for days, and you can pre-order the official DVD from BBC America which will be available on May 24th. And, for those of you who would like to explore the one thousand years of Royal Wedding history, from William the Conquer to Kate and Wills, we highly recommend Emily Brand’s new condensed volume Royal Weddings published by Shire Libraries. Here is the publisher’s blurb:

Royal Weddings, by Emily Brand (2011)With the impending nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton this April, Shire Publications offers Royal Weddings, the perfect primer on Britain’s rich nigh-millennial history of kingly couplings and the ideal accompaniment to the aforementioned must-see event of the twenty-first century.

Royal Weddings traces the evolution of matrimonial majesty from the politically charged, relatively austere, private affairs which dominate much of English history, to the grandiose extravaganza of Prince Charles’s and Diana’s union in 1981. Over time, British royal weddings have become the standard by which all other wedding ceremonies are compared.

The book abounds with eye-opening details and interesting stories, such as how King Henry VIII’s marital vows—“…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, ’til death do us part…”— have been paradigmatic ever since; or the touching account of the 15th century monarch, Edward IV, who married beneath him and had to keep his marriage to a poor soldier’s widow a secret.

Even with nearly a thousand years of British royalty to cover, author Emily Brand deftly keeps from wallowing in a mire of historical pedantry. Instead, she has culled together exquisitely fascinating facts and anecdotes and presents her discoveries in a lively and inquisitive tone. Her account of the 1625 wedding of King Charles I—for which the monarch wasn’t even present (he sent a surrogate for the lavish affair held at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris), reads as if she herself was present at the scurrilous event.

Royal Weddings is a sleek 56 pages volume, generously enhanced with 60 full-color pieces of rare art and photos that go beyond traditional wedding pictures and add to the guilty, yet informative, pleasure of the book. There are examples of elaborate decorations, feasts and wedding cakes; ornate jewelry, commemorative medallions and other unique items; wedding dresses and evolving fashions; marriage certificates, announcements, menu cards and other juicy particulars; even the nullification document of King Henry VIII’s short-lived marriage to Anne of Cleves, who Henry believed was misrepresented in the picture he was shown of her before agreeing to the coupling.

About the Author

Emily Brand is a writer and historian with a special interest in eighteenth and nineteenth-century England. She has written widely on domestic and family life for a number of history and genealogy magazines, including publications from BBC Magazines Bristol, the Jane Austen Centre in Bath and the National Archives. She is also an author for history society London Historians, of which she has been made an honorary member.

Wedding of Prince George and Princess Caroline 1795

The most infamous wedding of Jane Austen’s era was the disastrous union of George, The Prince of Wales (later George IV) to his first cousin Princess Caroline of Brunswick on 8 April 1795 at The Chapel Royal at St. James. Forced into an arranged marriage by his father King George III and Parliament, who pledged to pay off his debts, the Prince arrived for the ceremony “in his cups” stumbling up the aisle supported by the Dukes of Bedford and Roxborough. When no one objected to the proceedings, the Prince tried to escape and then sobbed openly. Jane Austen had a very low opinion of Prinny and his outrageous lifestyle, and for good reason. He openly cheated on his wife, ran up astronomical debts and plummeted the reputation of the British monarchy to the depths of despair by dragging his failed marriage through divorce court. Let’s hope that Wills and Kate have a happier life together.

4th Edition of Jane Austen’s Letters Due Out in November

Jane Austens Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye, 4th Edition (2011)Exciting news for Janeites! Deirdre Le Faye’s incredible scholarship on Jane Austen and her family continues in this new edition of Jane Austen’s Letters.

Many will be thrilled to learn that this 4th edition not only includes a new cover, but updates! Here is the description from Oxford University Press:

Jane Austen’s letters afford a unique insight into the daily life of the novelist: intimate and gossipy, observant and informative–they read much like the novels themselves. They bring alive her family and friends, her surroundings and contemporary events, all with a freshness unparalleled in modern biographies. Most important, we recognize the unmistakable voice of the author of such novels as Pride and Prejudice and Emma. We see the shift in her writing from witty and amusing descriptions of the social life of town and country, to a thoughtful and constructive tone while writing about the business of literary composition.

R.W. Chapman’s ground-breaking edition of the collected letters first appeared in 1932, and a second edition followed twenty years later. A third edition, edited Deirdre Le Faye in 1997 added new material, re-ordered the letters into their correct chronological sequence, and provided discreet and full annotation to each letter, including its provenance, and information on the watermarks, postmarks, and other physical details of the manuscripts. This new fourth edition incorporates the findings of recent scholarship to further enrich our understanding of Austen and give us the fullest and most revealing view yet of her life and family. In addition, Le Faye has written a new preface, has amended and updated the biographical and topographical indexes, has introduced a new subject index, and had added the contents of the notes to the general index.

Teachers, students, and fans of Jane Austen, at all levels, will find in these letters remarkable insight into one of the most popular novelists ever.

“These are the letters of our greatest novelist. They give glances and hints at her life from the age of 20 to her death at 41, the years in which she wrote her six imperishable books.”

–Claire Tomalin, Independent on Sunday

Features

  • An unparalleled and irresistible insight into the life of Jane Austen
  • A complete and accurate transcript of all Austen’s letters as known to date
  • Integrates the discoveries of recent Austen scholarship to reveal more about her life and family
  • 2011 marks the bicentenary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility, the first of Austen’s novels to appear in print

About the Author

Deirdre Le Faye , now retired, worked for many years in the Department of Medieval & Later Antiquities at the British Museum. She started researching the life and times of Jane Austen and her family in the 1970s, and since then has written several books about them, the latest being A Chronology of Jane Austen and her Family 1600-2000 , as well as numerous articles in literary journals.

The bit that really got my attention was the incorporation of new scholarship and a new preface. Huzzah!

Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye
Oxford University Press (2011)
Hardcover (688) pages
ISBN: 9780199576074ISBN10

Due to be released on 1 November 2011

Follow Friday: The Regency Encyclopedia

The Regency Encyclopedia

Here’s a great Follow Firday recommendation for you. Regency history expert Sue Forgue writes to tell us of a wonderful announcement. Her website The Regency Encyclopedia is celebrating its 5th anniversary and has revealed several new enhancements to the Fashion Module. These include:

Fashion Glossary: This is the same database of definitions that powers the highlighted words in the fashion prints’ texts.  You can now search on these definitions without hunting through the fashion prints.

Research Fashion Palettes: Ever wonder what a color like morone looks like or what garments would be in that color? This database allows you to research the fashion palette colors by year (1800-1829) or by the color itself.  A couple of caveats to keep in mind: First, since the color swatches are html codes, your monitor will determine how they display, so at best, these can only be considered approximations. Second, each year’s fashion palette has been compiled from the original fashion print texts and other contemporary fashion articles. If a color shows up in one year and not another, it doesn’t mean the color wasn’t used, it only means that I don’t have any original source documentation for it.

Visit the Modiste Shop to Dress the Doll: Have some fun creating your own regency era outfit. This is the first of an eventual six dolls in the series. Pick the year and the applicable colors for each garment type will load. You can pick any combination of available colors and change them as much as you please before the doll is displayed. When you do, you’ll see the doll in a lovely setting with text incorporating your color choices written in the style of the fashion column in “La Belle Assemblée”.

In addition to these functions, the fashion prints database has been increased to almost 1,700 images thanks to the generous contributions of Vicky Hinshaw of Milwaukee and Jeanne Steen of Chicago.

Many thanks to Sue and her crew for the incredible information available to Austen fans and Regency history buffs. The site is password protected so please use this info for access. Enjoy!

User ID: JaneAusten
Password: brilliant1
(both are case sensitive)

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Regency-era English Christmas Pudding: American Fruitcake’s Kissin’ Cousin

Mrs. Beeton's Traditional Christmas Plum Pudding circa 1890s

I recently read the delightful Regency-era Christmas novel The Mischief of the Mistletoe, by Lauren Willig. Our hero Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh and heroine Arabella Dempsey are brought together by a Christmas pudding! Yep. A very creative ice-breaker to introduce and spark a romance, right?

The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas, by Lauren Willig (2010)In 1803, Arabella is an instructor at Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies in Bath, where “Turnip’s” sister Sally is a pupil. He is delivering her Christmas hamper to her and she in turn gives him a small muslin-wrapped and beribboned Christmas pudding which he proceeds to drop after barreling into to our heroine in the making in the hallway of the school. After profusely apologizing, he bounds out the door with Arabella in pursuit in an attempt to return the pudding to him:

“Mr. Fitzhugh?” she called after him, holding the small, muslin-wrapped parcel aloft. “Mr. Fitzhugh! You forgot your pudding!”

Blast. He didn’t seem to have heard her. Lifting her skirts, Arabella hurried down the short flight of steps. Mr. Fitzhugh, his legs longer that hers, was already some way down the street, making for a very flashy phaeton driven by a team of matched bays.

“Mr. Fitzhugh!” she called, waving the pudding in the air, when the second man in one day knocked the breath out of her by taking a flying leap at the pudding she held in her hand.

It must have been pure stubbornness that caused her to keep her grip, but as the man tugged, Arabella found herself tugging back. Harder.

“I need that pudding!” her growled. “Give it over.”

“No!” gasped Arabella, clinging to the muslin wrapper with all her might. People couldn’t just go about taking other people’s puddings. It was positively un-British.

Indeed! “Turnip” comes to her rescue, fending off her assailant and hauling her off the ground for a second time in a day. The Christmas pudding is slightly askew from its original round shape, but what puzzles her most is a piece of paper attached to it written in French. Is it a cryptic message? A clue? A joke? It is this mystery that draws them together and the catalyst to their adventure and eventual romance.

If you’d like to find out how it all turns out for Turnip and Arabella – today is the last day to enter a drawing for two free copies of The Mischief of the Mistletoe, by Lauren Willig. Contest details can be found here, or leave a comment in this post telling me your Christmas pudding stories!

Cooking the Christmas pudding (1848)

Making a Christmas pudding is quite a lengthy process involving a long list of ingredients. Here is a description of the boiling in a large “copper” during Victorian times.

A large cylindrical metal (often copper) container with a capacity of between 20 – 40 gallons (73-145 litres), sometimes encased in brick, under which a fire could be lit to heat the contents. Apart from the preparation of workhouse gruel, coppers were used for washing clothes and for heating large quantities of water. Since the copper was the largest container in the house it was also used at Christmas for boiling the Christmas pudding which tied inside a cloth, was immersed in the hot water. Charles Dickens World

The Christmas pudding has been a traditional treat in England for centuries. For those of us who did not grow up with it as a holiday season staple, here is a very brief history of the Christmas pudding from The English Tea Store, one of my favorite online retailers for those Anglophiles, like myself, who live thousands of miles away from the mother England!

Serving the Christmas pudding

Christmas pudding, also known as plum pudding (because of the abundance of prunes), originated in England. It is traditionally made five weeks before Christmas, on or after the Sunday before Advent. That day was often deemed “Stir-up Sunday,” and each family member or child in the household gave the pudding a stir and made a wish.

The rich and heavy pudding is boiled or steamed, made of a heavy mixture of fresh or dried fruit, nuts and sometimes suet, a raw beef or mutton fat. Vegetarian suet may also be used for a lighter taste. The pudding is very dark, almost black, and is saturated with brandy, dark beer, or other alcohols. The puddings used to be boiled in a “pudding cloth,” but today they are usually made in basins.

Many households stirred silver coins (for wealth), tiny wishbones (for good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), a ring (for marriage), or an anchor (for safe harbor) into the mixture, and when served, whoever got the lucky serving, would be able to keep the charm. When silver coins were not as readily available, the practice ended because people feared putting alloy coins in their pudding. Today small token coins and other objects are made just for this use.

After the pudding has been steamed, it is kept in a cool dry place for several weeks or longer. It will need steamed for a few more hours on the day it is served. There are different ways Christmas pudding is served. Some decorate it with a spray of holly, douse it in brandy or set it on fire. Many families present the pudding in the dark or bring it to the table ceremoniously, where it is met with a round of applause.

Christmas pudding is eaten with brandy butter, rum butter, hard sauce, cream, custard or with a caster sugar. Families sometimes save one pudding for another holiday, like Easter, or even the next Christmas. Many argue that this takes away from the flavor, but that a good pudding will keep that long.

Recipes for plum puddings appear mainly, if not entirely, in the seventeenth century and later. It was not until the 1830s that the cannon-ball of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly, made a definite appearance, becoming more and more associated with Christmas. It appears that Eliza Acton was the first to refer to it as ‘Christmas Pudding’ in her cookbook.

Collin Street Bakery Deluxe Fruitcake

From childhood, my earliest Christmas food memories included a fruitcake that arrived every year by mail from my Great Aunt Margaret and Uncle Palmer. It came from the famous Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas. Highly anticipated and greatly appreciated in our family,  I have never understood the ongoing jokes about their being only one fruitcake in the world that keeps being mailed away to relatives every year and never eaten. Not in my family!

So what’s the difference between an English Christmas pudding and an American fruitcake? They do contain many of the same ingredients: dried or candied fruits, nuts, and sometimes, wait for it… liquor and are both made weeks before eaten so the flavors can meld and the liquor can intoxicate the cake. From what I have gleaned over the years of taste testing, the difference between them is technique. The traditional English Christmas pudding is steamed and is very round in shape. I have read it described as a cannon ball! They are so moist that with the final addition of liquor on top, they can be dramatically flambéed (set on fire) and then brought flaming to the table with much pomp and ceremony, whereas, the American fruitcake is baked in round fancy cake or oblong loaf pans and the liquor is brushed on over weeks so it soaks in gradually. It is then sliced which reveals the glass window effect of the colorful candied fruits. In the gastronomical world, the American fruitcake is definitely the kissing cousin of the English Christmas pudding, though the Brits might disagree. We mustn’t dispute. They do have a few thousand years of Christmas traditions on us.

English Christmas pudding decorated with holly

I love fruitcake so much that for years I searched for and taste tasted dozens of recipes. I think I have found the perfect combination of tart fruit, sweet sugar, rich butter, crunchy nuts and fragrant liquor to “set me up forever.” The secret to my ultimate fruitcake is that I use dried golden fruits like apricots, pears, peaches, pineapple, papaya, golden raisins (no prunes or gooey candied fruits in my fruitcake, thank you very much) and soak them in really good quality bourbon for two weeks before baking the cake five weeks before you plan to eat it. It is a lot of work and very expensive – but, only the best things in life are!

PS. For all of you that are cringing over the thought of a sticky, gooey and overly sweet fruitcake brick that your Great Aunt Winifred sends every holiday season, I have good news. You can re-gift it to Cousin Harold in Poughkeepsie who you have not seen in twenty years, and order one of the many incredibly delectable varieties offered from Collin Street Bakery instead. They are worlds away from that bad-rap fruitcake that is circumnavigating the globe at this very moment. Or, you can sweet talk me into sharing my super-secret recipe and make one for yourself. I promise, it will not be around long enough to necessitate re-gifting.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to all my readers. Now, go forth and eat your Christmas puddings and fruitcakes as more enlightened connoisseurs.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

© 2007-2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

(Disclaimer: Just in case the FTC has nothing else to do on Christmas Eve and is reading this blog, please do not be Scrooge and accuse me of being paid off by Collin Bakery to promote their fruitcakes. This is a true story. I did not make it up. I wrote about their great product without payment or free fruitcakes, though I would not turn one down if they offered! Who could?)

Happy Birthday Jane Austen Blog Tour: A Celebration of her Legacy – Her Juvenilia

Jane Austen Birthday banner from Google 2010

Put on you party hats and rip open the streamers. Today is Jane Austen’s 235th birthday! Even Google is getting into the spirit. Isn’t the banner they are displaying today lovely?

Welcome to the Happy Birthday Jane Blog Tour sponsored by Maria Grazia of My Jane Austen Book Club blog. If you have joined the party in progress, you have landed on one of the fifteen Austen bloggers or Austenesque authors that are honoring our favorite author today. The full list of participants is listed at the bottom of this blog post.

In addition to celebratory posts in honor of our dear Jane, there are tons of giveaway prizes. Just leave a comment before December 22, 2010 on one or all of the blog posts on the tour to multiply your chances of winning more of the prizes. Full details of the giveaway can be found on the My Jane Austen Book Club blog who will be announcing the winners.

Jane Austen's birthplace, Steventon Rectory, Hampshire, England

The Birth of a Genius

Born on the 16 of December in 1775 at Steventon Rectory near Alton Hampshire, Jane entered this world during a record snow storm. She was the seventh child and second daughter born to Reverend George Austen and his wife Cassandra nee Leigh. Here is an excerpt from a letter written on 17 December, 1775 from Jane Austen’s father to his sister-in-law Susannah Walter:

‘You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little if we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassy certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago: however last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy.’

It is the only remaining written reference to Jane Austen being called Jenny.

The Abbey School, Reading, England, Gatehouse from Austenonly

Early Education

Educated briefly at The Abbey School in Reading, Jane was basically a home schooled girl. At the knee of her Oxford educated father Reverend Austen she read extensively from her father’s diverse personal library of classics and, wait for it, NOVELS. Books would be her biggest influence in forming her education. Yes. The Austen’s were novel readers. This dramatic emphasis may sound inconsequential today in the age when novels outsell nonfiction hand over fist, but in the late eighteenth-century when Austen was being educated, poetry was the preferred medium. Novels were considered low-brow fare. The novel as we know it today was only yet taking flight on the wings of Samuel Richardson, William Defoe and Henry Fielding. Austen was exposed to these writers through her father, and other more adventurous prose from Gothic fiction writer Anne Radcliffe and her favorite romantic novelist Fanny Burney. Another early influence upon her education was the family’s interest in theatricals. Many popular plays were produced by the Austen children setting the stage, so-to-speak, for her later talent in her novels for creating drama and emotion in her dialogue and building arcs in her plots.

Illustration by Joan Hassall, Love and Freindship, The Folio Society (1973)

Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint.” Love and Freindship

A Writer in the Making

Reverend Austen encouraged both of his daughters to develop their talents and nurtured their creativity by giving them expensive supplies for writing and drawing. From 1787 to 1793, Jane wrote several poems, stories and plays for the amusement of her family. These were later reassembled into her personal writing journals given to her by her father and transferred into a “fair copy” in three bound notebooks. These are now called her Juvenilia. They contain many comical, far-fetched and boisterous tales of murder, death and romantic melodrama. Exuberant and high-spirited, this was Austen as a writer in the making, totally unbound, experimenting with style, content and letting loose with her wildest imaginings. Among my favorites in this collection are Love and Freindship (yes, note the spelling of e before i), The History of England and The Beautiful Cassandra. You can view scanned images of the original manuscripts at Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts Digital Edition online website. They are a real treat.

History of England Illustrations by Cassandra Austen

Volume the First

Volume the Second

Volume the Third


Happy Birthday Jane Austen Blog Tour 2010

Visit the other Happy Birthday, Jane Blog Tour posts today:

  1. Adriana Zardini, at Jane Austen Sociedad do Brasil
  2. Laurel Ann, at Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog
  3. Vic Sanborn, at Jane Austen’s World
  4. Katherine Cox, at November’s Autumn
  5. Karen Wasylowski, at Karen Wasylowski Blog
  6. Laurie Viera Rigler, at Jane Austen Addict Blog
  7. Lynn Shepherd, at her Lynn Shepherd Blog
  8. Jane Greensmith, at Reading, Writing, Working, Playing
  9. Jane Odiwe, at Jane Austen Sequels Blog
  10. Alexa Adams, at First Impressions Blog
  11. Regina Jeffers, at her Regina Jeffers Blog
  12. Cindy Jones at First Draft Blog
  13. Janet Mullany at Risky Regencies Blog
  14. Maria Grazia at My Jane Austen Book Club Blog
  15. Meredith at Austenesque Reviews

Get Your Free, Free, and did I say Free, Ebooks, for two days only!

In celebration of Jane Austen’s Birthday, Sourcebooks, the world’s leading publisher of Jane Austen fiction, is offering free digital downloads of ten of their popular sequels for two days only, December 16 and 17, 2010. I have placed links to the NookBook editions of each of the books being offered. Follow this link to my previous post listing all ten novels and six of the Jane Austen illustrated editions being offered today. Enjoy!

Here is a link to Sourcebooks for the free Jane Austen eBooks with all of the links to download for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Sourcebooks, Google eBookstore and Sony eBookstore.

Happy Birthday Jane. Thanks for many, many hours of enjoyment.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007-2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Extremely Rare Presentation Copy of Jane Austen’s Emma and Austen Family China on the Block at Sotheby’s

As Jane Austen fans around the world celebrate her birthday on December 16th, one lucky (and very rich) Janeite will win an auction at Sotheby’s in London for an extremely rare presentation copy of Emma sent to author Maria Edgeworth from Austen’s publisher as a gift from the author after its publication on 23 December 1815. This is the second presentation copy to be offered at auction in as many years after Bonhams sold a copy given by Austen to her dear friend Anne Sharp for £180,000 setting a new auction record for a printed book by the British author. The new owner Jonkers Books resold the edition earlier this year to an undisclosed British collector for £325,000. Considering that the Edgeworth edition has remained in her family for close to two hundred years and is “unique in being the only known copy of Emma given by Jane Austen to a fellow writer,” the estimated price for volumes I and III (volume II is missing?) of £70,000-100,000 seems rather low. One assumes that the missing volume II is the diminishing factor.

Engraving of Maria Edgeworth from Evert A. Duyckinck’s A Portrait Gallery of Eminent Men and Women of Europe and America, with Biographies ( Johnson, Fry and Co, 1872)

Austen admired Maria Edgeworth’s work greatly expressing her enthusiasm to her niece Anna Austen an aspiring novelist in 1814, “I have made up my mind to like no novels really, but Miss Edgeworth’s, yours & my own.” Unfortunately, Edgeworth’s esteem was not reciprocated. After reading Emma she wrote to her half-brother Charles Sneyd Edgeworth that “There was no story in it…” Julie at Austenonly has written an excellent account of Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth’s relationship, and her honest opinion of what many claim to be Austen finest work.

Also available in the same lot is a Wedgewood Dinner Set that has been on display at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton. It has been passed down in the Knight family since it was originally purchased in London by Jane’s brother Edward Austen Knight in 1813. Jane actually assisted her brother and his daughter Fanny in making the selection. “We then went to Wedgwoods where my brother and Fanny chose a Dinner Set, I believe the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow Gold; – and it is to have the Crest.” An estimate of £50,000-70,000 is in place. It is sad that the family needs to sell the china and a great loss to the museum. Maybe another benevolent Janeite will step forward and rescue it from speculators. It is a lovely set.

Both of the extremely rare items with an Austen association will be available in Sothebys sale of English Literature, History and Children’s Books & Illustrations in London on the 16th of December, 2010.

Photos: Sotheby’s.

Related posts:

© 2007 – 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Jane Austen and the ‘father of the novel’ – Samuel Richardson

Gentle readers: Last week I reviewed Lynn Shepherd’s new Austen inspired mystery Murder at Mansfield Park. Not only is she an accomplished novelist, she is a distinguished Samuel Richardson scholar with a new book Clarissa’s Painter: Portraiture, Illustration, and Representation in the Novels of Samuel Richardson, published by the venerable Oxford University Press. Richardson was Jane Austen’s favorite novelist and I could not pass up the opportunity for Lynn to chat about his impact on her writing and the English novel. This is her generous contribution. Enjoy!

What influence did Samuel Richardson have on novels like Mansfield Park?

Jane Austen’s biographers often have to resort to guesswork and speculation about many aspects of her life, but there’s one thing we do know, and that’s who her favourite author was. According to her nephew, James-Edward Austen-Leigh, her knowledge of Samuel Richardson “was such as no one is likely again to acquire . . . Every circumstance narrated in Sir Charles Grandison, all that was said or done in the cedar parlour, was familiar to her; and the wedding days of [characters like] Lady L. and Lady G. were as well remembered as if they had been living friends.”

Richardson is a literary hero of mine, too, and I always think it’s sad that so few people read him nowadays. Not only because Clarissa, in particular, is one of the great masterpieces of European literature, but because it’s only by reading Richardson that you really understand the tradition Austen was writing in, and where she got some of the inspiration for her books.

So who was Samuel Richardson?

Academics and critics have been arguing for years about who wrote the first English novel. Some argue for Defoe and Robinson Crusoe, others for Fielding, but I’ve always been a firm supporter of Pamela, which Richardson published in 1740.

Pamela is a novel-in-letters, written by a young serving-maid to her parents, in which she describes her master’s attempts to seduce her. But as the subtitle (‘Virtue Rewarded’) suggests, all’s well that ends with a wedding. It sounds pretty standard stuff now, but at the time it was a publishing sensation.  There were 5 editions by the end of 1741, with an estimated 20,000 copies sold. It was also the first book to have what we would now call a ‘promotional campaign’. As a printer himself, Richardson employed all the tricks of the book-trade, including newspaper leaders and celebrity endorsement, and may even have encouraged the publication of a pamphlet that denounced the novel as pornographic, which certainly had a predictably healthy effect on sales!

But if it was Pamela that was ground-breaking, Richardson’s next novel, Clarissa, is the one that really established a new kind of prose fiction in English. This, like all Richardson’s books, is an epistolary novel, and it’s worth remembering that when Austen first put pen to paper seriously herself, she chose exactly this form – first in Lady Susan, and then in Elinor & Marianne, the first version of Sense & Sensibility. Clarissa is the story of a young woman who’s tricked away from her family by the libertine, Robert Lovelace, and eventually raped. The story evolves through two parallel correspondences – Clarissa’s with her friend Anna, and Lovelace’s with his confidant Belford. The depth and subtlety of the psychological characterisation is extraordinary, and you can see immediately why Henry Austen says his sister was such an admirer of “Richardson’s power of creating, and preserving, the consistency of his characters.” However, Clarissa is undeniably a very long read, so if you’d like a taster first, I recommend the BBC adaptation starring Sean Bean. It’s quite old now, but really worth taking a look at.

Sir Charles Grandison

The interesting point about that last quote, though, is that it’s actually about Sir Charles Grandison, Richardson’s last, longest, and least interesting book. All the same it was undeniably Austen’s favourite, and the one that had the most direct influence on her literary technique. As the critic Marilyn Butler has said, “Sir Charles Grandison contributed more than any other single book to the tradition of social comedy… which Jane Austen inherited.” Again and again, you can see Austen using characters and episodes from Richardson, and re-working them for her own purposes. If you’re interested there’s an excellent book on this whole subject by Jocelyn Harris called Jane Austen’s Art of Memory.

The parallels between Grandison and Mansfield Park, in particular, are especially interesting. Both books deal with similar themes, like marriage, education, and the relationships between parents and children, but there are also some striking similarities between many of the characters, notably the respective heroes and heroines – Fanny Price and Harriet Byron, and Edmund Bertram and Sir Charles. For example, both Fanny and Harriet are either literally or effectively orphans, who are adopted by a much richer family: as a result they both acquire two ‘sisters’ and a ‘brother’ they rapidly fall for, even though the man himself is in love with someone else entirely.

There’s no question that Austen loved Sir Charles Grandison, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t prepared to send it up gently. Isabella Tilney famously calls it an ‘amazing horrid book’, and sometime in the 1790s Jane and her niece Anna worked together to turn Richardson’s million-word novel into a ten-minute comic play for the family to perform. Though that’s rather easier than it sounds, because so little actually happens in Grandison: Sir Walter Scott recalled an old lady telling him she always chose to have that book read to her, because “should I drop asleep in course of the reading, I am sure, when I awake, I shall have lost none of the story, but shall find the party, where I left them, conversing in the cedar-parlour.”

One reason I mention this is because it’s something I always say to people who say you should never tinker with a literary classic like Austen, whether by writing sequels or pastiches, or creating new versions based on her works, like my own Murder at Mansfield Park. It’s useful to remind ourselves that Jane Austen did exactly the same thing, using Richardson both as the source text for a youthful skit, and – more seriously – as an important inspiration for her mature novels.  On that basis I think she’d be flattered that nearly 200 years after her death, so many of us still turn to her books to find inspiration for new work of our own.

Fast facts about the ‘Father of the Novel’

  • Born near Derby in 1689, Richardson was married twice and had six sons and six daughters, of whom only four girls survived.  His education was limited, but he became an extremely successful printer in London, not putting pen to paper on his own account until he was 50.
  • At the age of 13, Richardson was making money writing love-letters for young women he knew, an experience he claimed gave him his knowledge of the female heart.
  • When the villagers of Slough read of Pamela’s wedding in the newspaper they ran the church bell in celebration.
  • You can actually read Clarissa in ‘real time’, starting on January 10th, and finishing on December 18th.

They said…

“This Richardson is a strange fellow. I heartily despise him, and eagerly read him, nay, sob over his works in a most scandalous manner.” Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

“If you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang yourself. But you must read him for the sentiment, and consider the story as only giving occasion to the sentiment”.  Samuel Johnson

He said…

“I thought [if Pamela were] written in an easy and natural manner… [it] might possibly introduce a new species of writing, that might possibly turn young people into a course of reading different from the pomp and parade of romance-writing”

Want to find out more?

There are good basic introductions to Richardson and his novels here:

The site below is also really interesting. Richardson didn’t just publish the first English novel, but the first illustrated novel too. He took advantage of Pamela’s runaway success by issuing a lavish ’collector’s edition’ two years later (though there were pirate illustrated versions before that). Richardson went to great expense to commission his own illustrations from two of the leading book engravers of the time. It’s fascinating to see him using these images as a way of ensuring that readers only saw ‘his’ version of Pamela the demure and virtuous heroine, and not – like many of his contemporaries, including Henry Fielding – “a pert little minx, whom any man of common sense or address might have had on his own terms in a week”!

Lynn Shepherd studied English at Oxford, and later went on to do a doctorate on Samuel Richardson, which has now been published by Oxford University Press. She’s also a passionate Jane Austen fan, and has just published Murder at Mansfield Park. You can visit her website and follow her on Twitter as GhostingAusten.

Reflections upon Jane Austen’s death, July 18, 1817: “her talents, her virtues, and her engaging manners”

Much has been written on the cause of Jane Austen’s lingering illness and untimely death in Winchester on 18 July 1817. I have a stack of biographies that I perused in search of a poignant passage that would express the tenor of this solemn day. Her great biographers Claire Tomalin, David Nokes and Elizabeth Jenkins give detailed accounts from family in attendance and their own conclusions. I find her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh’s interpretation from his A Memoir of Jane Austen simple and touching. Even though it is not elaborate or detailed, it is the only version from the view point of someone who actually knew her, and I find that unique and invaluable.

Throughout her illness she was nursed by her sister, often assisted by her sister-in-law, my mother. Both were with her when she died. Two of her brothers, who were clergymen, lived near enough to Winchester to be in frequent attendance, and to administer the services suitable for a Christian’s death-bed. While she used the language of hope to her correspondents, she was fully aware of her danger, though not appalled by it. It is true that there was much to attach her to life. She was happy in her family; she was just beginning to feel confidence in her own success; and, no doubt, the exercise of her great talents was an enjoyment in itself. We may well believe that she would gladly have lived longer; but she was enabled without dismay or complaint to prepare for death. She was a humble, believing Christian. Her life had been passed in the performance of home duties, and the cultivation of domestic affections, without any self-seeking or craving after applause. She had always sought, as it were by instinct, to promote the happiness of all who came within her influence, and doubtless she had her reward in the peace of mind which was granted her in her last days. Her sweetness of temper never failed. She was ever considerate and grateful to those who attended on her. At times, when she felt rather better, her playfulness of spirit revived, and she amused them even in their sadness. Once, when she thought herself near her end, she said what she imagined might be her last words to those around her, and particularly thanked her sister-in-law for being with her, saying: ‘You have always been a kind sister to me, Mary.’ When the end at last came, she sank rapidly, and on being asked by her attendants whether there was anything that she wanted, her reply was, ‘Nothing but death.’ These were her last words. In quietness and peace she breathed her last on the morning of 18 July, 1817.

On the 24th of that month she was buried in Winchester Cathedral, near the centre of the north aisle, almost opposite to the beautiful chantry tomb of William of Wykeham. A large slab of black marble in the pavement marks the place. Her own family only attended the funeral. Her sister returned to her desolated home, there to devote herself, for ten years, to the care of her aged mother; and to live much on the memory of her lost sister, till called many years later to rejoin her. Her brothers went back sorrowing to their several homes. They were very fond and very proud other. They were attached to her by her talents, her virtues, and her engaging manners; and each loved afterwards to fancy a resemblance in some niece or daughter of his own to the dear sister Jane, whose perfect equal they yet never expected to see. [1]

Her burial and gravestone are a bit of an enigma. The fact that she was laid to rest in the north aisle of the nave at Winchester Cathedral is a mystery that has never been explained to me with any satisfaction. Why was she given this sacred spot reserved for dignitaries and aristocrats, not daughters of clergymen who wrote anonymously and were unknown by the general public? To add to the quandary, when her brother Henry composed the epitaph for her gravestone he mentioned her family and faith, but not her writing achievements. Is this a clue that her family did not acknowledge that she was being given this place of honor because of her novels? Why else would the church have approved her burial among saints, cardinals, bishops and other men of distinction? Regardless of the initial reason for approval, close to two hundred years later, she is befittingly its most famous resident.

The Jane Austen Story, an exhibit honoring Jane Austen continues at the cathedral until 20 September, 2010. You can visit Jane Austen’s final resting place and tour the exhibit on her life and funeral.

“I have lost a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed, – She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her, & it is as if I had lost a part of myself…” Letter from Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra to her niece Fanny Knight, 20 July 1817.

Further reading

1. J. E. Austen-Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen (1989 reprint of 1871 2nd edition) Folio Society, London, p. 154-55

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’: Jane Austen and Music

Gentle Readers: in celebration of the ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ event over the next month, I have asked several of my fellow Jane Austen bloggers to share their knowledge and interest in Austen’s most popular novel. Today, please welcome guest blogger Vic from Jane Austen’s World who shares with us her extensive knowledge of Regency culture and history in four posts during the event. Her fourth contribution is on music during Jane Austen’s era, how it influenced her life, and her writing.

“Yes, yes, we will have a pianoforte, as good a one as can be got for 30 guineas, and I will practice country dances, that we may have some amusement for our nephews and nieces, when we have the pleasure of their company.” – Jane Austen to Cassandra, 1808

Like many ladies of her era, Jane Austen was an accomplished musician. And so were her characters. In Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet, Elizabeth Bennet, the Bingley sisters and Georgiana Darcy could all play instruments with skill. Lady Catherine de Bourgh would have been a proficient, as would her daughter Anne, had she learned and practiced. Before the age of electricity and cable the world was largely silent musically speaking, save for the music played by family members, local musicians, or more famous musicians who were paid to play for the rich.

Musicians wandered the land, and London streets offered a pandemonium of sounds, much of it derived from musical instruments. The only music available in the home was that which amateur or professional performers could produce on the spot, so that the ability to play music well was crucial for all walks of life. From childhood on, young ladies were expected to play a musical instrument and study with music masters. Gentlemen sang as well and formed impromptu amateur groups that entertained in taverns and men’s clubs.

Continue reading at Jane Austen’s World

Further reading

Upcoming event posts

Day 20   July 14   Group Read: Chapters 57 – 61
Day 21   July 16   Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennet
Day 22   July 24   Swag winners announced

‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies': “Enamoured of the Picturesque at a Very Early Age”: William Gilpin and Jane Austen

Dovedale in the Peak district of Derbyshire from Observations on the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland etc, by William Gilpin (1786)

Gentle Readers: in celebration of the ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’ event over the next month, I have asked several of my fellow Jane Austen bloggers to share their knowledge and interest in Austen’s most popular novel. Today, please welcome guest blogger Julie from Austenonly who shares with us her extensive knowledge of Regency culture and history in two posts during the event. Her second contribution is on travel writer William Gilpin whose influence upon Jane Austen is seen in Pride and Prejudice. Discover how she was able to describe the Derbyshire countryside even though she had never traveled there and why the use of the “picturesque” is a hidden joke in the plot.

Having read Henry Austen’s biographical notice of his sister, published in the posthumously printed first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, I knew from an early age, that Jane Austen was

enamoured of Gilpin on the Picturesque at a very early age…

and so when aged 15 I found a copy of his Observations on the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland in what was then one of my favourite haunts, a second-hand bookshop in Dr Johnson’s home city of Lichfield, I bought it  immediately…But now comes a confession…Prepare yourself for something very dreadful… I didn’t read it for another 20 years.

I thought it would be deadly boring.

How wrong I was.

I should have trusted Jane Austen’s taste and judgement, and realised exactly why she was enamoured of him…..but we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before we explore his books and the reasons why I think she adored him, we ought properly to learn a little about William Gilpin’s life.

William Gilpin was born on 4 June 1724 near Carlisle, in Cumberland. He was the son of Captain John Bernard Gilpin and a Matilda Langstaffe . Captain Gilpin was considered to be one of the best amateur painters of the time, and this artistic talent seems to have passed through to the next generation, for William was obsessed with the correct way to view both pictures and landscape, and his younger brother, Sawrey Gilpin was to become a famous animal painter and indeed later contributed some illustrations to Williams books.

Continue reading on Austenonly

Further Reading

Upcoming event posts

Day 17  July 10     Group Read: Chapters 50 – 56
Day 18  July 11     Top Ten P&P editions in print
Day 19  July 12     Music at the Netherfield Ball