An Austen Intern Reports in From The Jane Austen Centre: Week 12

Mansfield Park (1999) Henry Crawford, Maria Bertram and Mr. Rushworth

The advenure continues as intern Virginia Claire Tharrington reports in on her experience at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England.

Secondary characters in Austen and in life

This week has been a slightly crazy one for me again because we have had our second round of papers due for my Jane Austen class. I have also been working on my dissertation which will focus on Jane Austen adaptations and the agenda’s that I perceive that the movies take verse what I think Jane Austen’s agenda was in writing the novels. It should be interesting and I will keep everyone posted on its developments. I think I will just be ranting in parts of it ; ) but we will see.  My paper topic for this week was on a Virginia Woolf quote saying “She wishes neither to reform nor to annihilate; she is silent, and that is terrific indeed.  One after another she creates her fools, her prigs, her worldlings…She encircles them with the lash of a whip-like phrase, which, as it runs round them, cuts out their silhouettes forever.” I took this topic and focused on secondary characters in Mansfield Park, particularly Maria and Rushworth because I enjoy them so much. She draws them both so deliberately and perfectly. Rushworth particular has some of the best line of the narrator’s scorn and yet his bride does not fair much better. Maria’s reasons for matrimony are scorned and her actions with Crawford are condoned yet she is such a wonderful character still.  Austen does shape secondary character so beautifully. With Mansfield Park it seems that its secondary characters are the most memorable at times. (Don’t get me wrong here I do like Fanny and Edmund yet I think other characters have better lines and commentaries).

Mansfield Park (2007), Maria and Mr. Rushworth

I was talking with some of the other guides at the Jane Austen Centre about these secondary characters and they too pointed out their love/disgust at people like Rushworth. One guide pointed out that the Bertrams and Rushworth’s have every advantage over Fanny in education, status and rank and yet it is Fanny who ends up the heroine. Mary Crawford I think particularly can fit into the mold of a faulty education. Many of the phrases Mary Crawford is known for are things that I feel like could come out of Elizabeth’s Bennet’s mouth (though with more propriety and obvious exceptions). Perhaps Austen is commenting on a London education and how little it could do for a girl. Perhaps Mary would have been more like Elizabeth had she been raised in the country rather than in town. But we shall never know. All I want to point out is that Mary Crawford is a lot like Elizabeth except with town thrown in.  It is interesting to think about at least.

As for more about secondary characters in Jane Austen, what about secondary characters in life? I sometimes wish that I had the delineating wit that Jane Austen had to cut so far and so fast into people. Everyone knows people like Rushworth or Maria in life… or at least people who share some of the qualities and I think it is one of the beautiful things about Austen because I seem to enjoy these people more after reading her. I think Austen’s secondary characters show, me at least, that there are reasons and people to laugh at every day. We just have to find them. Jane was severe to be sure yet sometimes severity doesn’t hurt. I am not going to publish a novel of the fools I encounter; I am just trying to make it through college sane and in one piece. I think Austen can help show us how to do this by finding those little quarks that can make us laugh and reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously. So though I do not have any Rushworth’s or Maria’s in my life I think they can remind us to look around, see the world, and laugh!

Cheerio till next week! My brother is coming to visit so the post will be about brothers and sister…. I think my brother more of the William Price type, though his correspondence is not as constant as William’s!

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Virginia Claire Tharrington

Intern, The Jane Austen Centre, Bath, England

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An Austen Intern Reports in from The Jane Austen Centre: Week 10

Virgina Claire Tharrington and her Austen class group at Chawton (2008)

Virginia Claire Tharrington (center) visiting Chawton Cottage (2008)

The advenure continues as intern Virginia Claire Tharrington reports in on her experience at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England.

First Trip Home (trip to Chawton)

Friday I saw one of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. My Jane Austen class went on our study trip to Winchester and Chawton. It was amazing and one of the best days of my entire time here.

Virginia Claire Tharrington at College Street home of Jane Austen, Winchester (2008)

Virginia in front of Jane Austen’s last home on College Street, Winchester

We started out at the house on College Street in Winchester where Jane Austen spent her last days and died in Cassandra’s arms. Though we did not get to go inside the house because it is in private hands it was interesting to see this house that she spent her last months in. Cassandra had brought Jane to Winchester in 1817 to seek medical care but the doctors could barely help with the pain much less with the real problem (which is now believed to be Addison’s disease). The house is a simple building but it is beside the College and Jane’s bedroom is supposed to have overlooked the headmaster’s garden.

Virginia Claire Tharrington visiting Jane Austen's grave at Winchester Cathedral (2008)

Virginia at the graveside of Jane Austen at Winchester Cathedral

After this we went to Winchester Cathedral to see her grave. I thought it was very interesting that only 4 people attended her funeral, 3 brothers and a nephew. Cassandra did not attend her beloved sister’s funeral because in that time it was not customary for women to attend. This struck me as very sad because the sisters were so close and loving. Jane Austen’s grave was very interesting as well because though it is a loving memorial it does not mention anything about her being a writer. It is not till later many years after her death that the plaque was added that says Jane Austen was a famous writer. We stopped at her grave and I was very touched by it if only because it is sort of ironic that at her death she was only known as a parson’s daughter but yet she was buried in one of the largest churches in England. But now her fame has risen to the height that she is the most visited person in the church. We later saw Mrs. Austen and Cassandra’s grave at the little Church at Chawton and thought I think she would better fit there; I think she would be amused at the fact that she is so popular now.  Winchester was a lovely town but I was very excited to move on to see Chawton Cottage and Manor House.

Virginia Claire Tharrington visiting Jane Austen's desk at Chawton Cottage, Hampshire (2008)

Virginia visiting Jane’s desk at Chawton Cottage, Hampshire

Chawton Cottage was a lovely house though it was much bigger than we had expected. I was most excited to see the little table where Jane had written her letter. I did get to see this and I even touched (though you are not suppose to). It was amazing to see this little table on which she rewrote or composed some of the world’s greatest novels. I thought it was also interesting that Jane and Cassandra shared a room while they were at Chawton though there were 6 bedrooms. I would like to believe that these beloved sisters took so much enjoyment from one another that they could not be parted and I suspect that some of their best times were at night when it was just the two of them.  The house is most wonderful and that I am so glad we got to see it.

Virginia Claire Tharrington in front of Chawton Manor House (2008)

Virginia in front of Chawton Manor, Hampshire

Chawton Manor was our next and last stop. Chawton Manor was owned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward and it was passed down until it fell into disrepair after WWI. We went to see the library which has been started by an America member of JASNA. It is a fantastic library of early women writers. We saw first editions of Cecilia which is where Jane Austen could have gotten the title for Pride and Prejudice. It was a wonderful resource and I hope to one day to go back and research there.

This trip has been so wonderful. It has really been a dream come true. To see where Jane wrote and loved so dearly. I can see why she was so eager to leave Bath and go back to the country.  It felt almost as if I was going home, well maybe not to my home but to Jane’s which is just as good! : )

The Jane Austen Centre logoCheers until next week.

Virginia Claire Tharrington

Intern, The Jane Austen Centre, Bath, England

Read Virginia’s previous reports in the Austen Intern archives

An Austen Intern Reports in from The Jane Austen Centre: Week 9

The advenure continues as intern Virginia Claire Tharrington reports in on her experience at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England.

Jane Austen goes abroad and comes back to Bath!

Last week was on mid-semester break so I was off to Amsterdam and Prague with my friends for the several days. But this week was not spent separated from Jane Austen. No, on the contrary I bring her where ever I go! So naturally I was not only reading Mansfield Park on my travels but also picking up copies of Pride and Prejudice in both Dutch and Czech. I am a collector of copies of Pride and Prejudice and though I have several copies in other languages I did not have one in Dutch or Czech. I thought it was very strange because it took me much longer to find a shop with P&P in it in Amsterdam than it did in Prague. Several of the book stores I went in Prague had the whole Austen set plus a biography while in Amsterdam it took me 3 days to find a store with just P&P. I thought it was remarkable that both copies had Keira Knightley on the cover. This was the only thing that bothered me because many people know how I dislike the newest version of P&P and that I hate that it gets referenced to the book. I guess little can be expected and that if someone sees the movies and then sees a book cover that makes them pick up and read the book then it may be ok but I cannot stand the movie taking the place of the book.

I think it is so amazing that Jane Austen is so international. She has been translated into countless languages and though I have several different languages, I know I am nowhere near the total number of translations. It is remarkable that so many people all over the world can be drawn to one English middle class woman writer who was writing about the English countryside and just a few families in it. But Jane is so much more than that I feel. She deals with timeless issues like love, family and money and I don’t know more significant themes for today’s world though we take them on very differently. Her wit is timeless as well as her irony. Though I cannot read Czech, I can tell you what, “Světem panuje skálopevné přesvědčení že svobodný muž který má slušné jmění, se neobejde bez ženušky“, means. It is one of the best lines in the literature, “It is a true universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” I guess it is universally acknowledge because this line has been translated to languages all over the world!

But now I am settled back in Bath with two new copies of Pride and Prejudice and very happy to be back at the Jane Austen Centre. I was home sick a little for the first time over break and I think that was because I was not at the Centre which feels so much like home while I am in Bath. I know it sounds cliché but the staff at the Centre is so wonderful and I enjoy being around them so much that it really feels like a little family.  Being back has been wonderful though we have been very busy because of half term in the schools. Some of my housemates have started to come to the Centre to hear my talk and take the tour, though they have all heard my talk because I practiced on them before I started giving them at the Centre. The girls really enjoyed my talk and then we went up and had a lovely snack in the tea rooms before going down to the exhibition. All and all, it has been good to be home in Bath and back at the Jane Austen Centre, though when I go abroad Jane comes with me ; ).

Cheers until next week.

Virginia Claire Tharrington

Intern, The Jane Austen Centre, Bath, England

Read Virginia’s previous reports in the Austen Intern archives

An Austen Intern Reports in From The Jane Austen Centre: Week 5

The ultimate Austen adventure continues with our featured weekly columnist, Virginia Claire Tharrington straight from the trenches of Austen central, The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England where she is interning until December. Join her every Saturday as she shares with us her incredible adventure that every Janeite, and even Austen’s heroine Catherine Morland would envy.

This week has been so wonderful in Bath. Other than having a full day of rain on Tuesday the weather has been delightful. This week at the Jane Austen Centre I started again to give the talks at the Centre which has been wonderful. The tour begins with a introductory talk in which a member of staff tells you about Jane Austen, her writings, her life and her time while she was in Bath. I was very nervous to begin to give these talks but it has gotten so much easier since I started. I have now given about eight and I feel like with each one I give it gets a little bit easier and I become a little more comfortable. I am not a very good public speaker by any means but I knew that if there was one subject that I could talk about for fifteen minutes it would be Jane Austen. I have learned so much by giving these talks as well because though we are given a rough sketch of what needs to be said, it is up to the individual guide to decided exactly what to say. I will not bore you with everything that I say : ) (you can come to the Jane Austen Centre to hear that! haha) but I will say that each time I feel like my talk becomes more natural and I have to look at my notes less.

I have also been working a lot in the giftshop for the Centre which is lovely because I get to work with the wonderful staff. I love spending time getting to know everyone as the staff has a wealth of knowledge and I love picking their brains about everything from life in Bath to Jane Austen and movie adaptations. There is always something new to look at in the shop and for some reason I feel like I need as much Jane Austen stuff as I can get. My poor house mates have Darcy posters in our living room along with an entire mantle coved in Jane Austen postcards, pictures and magazines. They have now started to be able to laugh at it and have accepted that they are living with a Jane Austen fanatic. While we were watching Sense and Sensibility in our living room this week, some of the guys walked in talking during the Elinor and Edward proposal scene and the five girls who were all watching it got very mad at them for interupting!

Bath has been lovely though in every way and it is truly a dream come true to be here and working at the Centre. I am not sure what I anticipated coming to Bath but it has defiantly exceeded my wildest expectations! I am off to Lyme Regis for the weekend with some girls from my house, so perhaps I will meet Captain Wentworth or Anne Elliot while I am there. If not I will still not leap from the stairs on the cob but I will take picture.

Cheers from England!

Virginia Claire Tharrington

Intern, The Jane Austen Centre, Bath, England

An Austen Intern Reports in From The Jane Austen Centre: Week 3

The ultimate Austen adventure continues with our featured weekly columnist, Virginia Claire Tharrington straight from the trenches of Austen central, The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England where she is interning until December. Join her every Saturday as she shares with us her incredible adventure that every Janeite, and even Austen’s heroine Catherine Morland would envy.

This week has been amazing even if I haven’t been feeling that great.  Tonight was the opening party at The Jane Austen Centre for The Jane Austen Festival September 19th-28th, and we all had such a lovely time. I met several people from the US who had come all the way for the festival. I have been working in the shop for most of the week but I did start guiding this week as well. I am so honored to be the intern at the centre I always leave in such a good mood because of the wonderful people who work at the centre and the fact that I get to talk about Jane Austen all day!

Tonight the festival opening party was lovely. There were several wonderful costumes along with some very interesting characters. I was not feeling my best tonight but being at the party lifted my spirits. I meet several people from the state and from around England and Denmark. There was one lady named Tracy who is writing a novel and she had been traveling around England searching for Pemberley. I was very intrigued by her and she seemed to have had a wonderful time up in Derbyshire.  I am hoping to get to go to see Derbyshire and especially Lyme Park which is where the 1995 Pride and Prejudice was filmed. Martin and I started the night greeting at the door but when we came up stairs I really began to enjoy the party. It was so exciting to see all the pictures from the Promenade last year and I am so thankful that I at least get to do that because I will be missing most of the festival because my study abroad group is going to Oxford for the week.

The Regency Promenade is tomorrow and Jackie Herring has been working so hard on the Queen Square Fair that we will end at. I am so excited to be dressing up again with all of the girls from the Centre. We will be walking through much of Bath and from what I understand we will be a spectacle. I am very excited to see all the soldiers and navy officers which will be joining all the ladies on our walk. It is always exciting to see gentlemen in waistcoats and tales.

I started giving my introductory talk this weeks and I am so glad to have it under my belt. I felt so good about it and I am just glad that the first couple are over because they seem to come more naturally. Hopefully this will improve my ability to speak in front of crowds because I still get a little scared about it sometimes. I think my first talk went ok but the next two I felt much better about. I believe if there is one thing I can talk about for 15 minutes it is Jane Austen. I have no problem conversing with everyone in the shop about her so the next step was to start giving the talks.

I have had a wonderful week at the centre even if my week has been plagued with illness and stress. We leave for Oxford tomorrow for the week and I will have to travel there by myself since I have the Promenade and everything. I will have plenty of pictures next time of the Promenade!

Cheers from England and the Jane Austen Centre!

Virginia Claire Tharrington

Intern, The Jane Austen Centre, Bath, England