Allied troops entering Paris after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte
“the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces so little effect after so much labour” Letter to Edward Austen, 16 December 1816, The Letters of Jane Austen
Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, which is generally credited as Napoleon Bonaparte’s final defeat; – a significant event in European history that deeply affected the lives of every Englishman and the World. Bonaparte would soon surrender his troops and abdicate the throne, ending a seventeen year conflict between Britain and France, and other European nations. You can read a complete account of the battle here.
Jane Austen had very little to say about the Battle of Waterloo or any aspect of the Napoleonic War, and that really irritated some of her critics. For some reason, the fact that she did not discuss politics or war in her novels makes her somehow negligent and narrow as an authoress. Her surviving personal correspondence is a bit better, with dribs and drabs of comment to her sister Cassandra about their two brothers Frank and Charles who served as sailors in his Majesties Navy, and were deep into the thick of the fighting.
She lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the Napoleon’s tyranny. To criticize her because she chose not to include mention of it or other external political events in her novels is a misunderstanding of her intensions. Author David Nokes in his biography Jane Austen: A Life, touches upon this point and offers a logical explanation.
“At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy … My tears flow as I write at the melancholy idea” Jane Austen Letter to Cassandra Austen, 16 January 1796, The Letters of Jane Austen
My Dear Miss Austen,
Our tears flow too dear Jane. A tornado has hit the gentle shores of your Austenland, and it’s not a pretty sight. We would be remiss if we did not mention that they are at it again; – the ladies and gentleman of the press; – yes – they are claiming that your youthful flirtation with Tom Lefroy inspired you to create your character Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice! Sigh.
It appears that the day has not yet come on which the press is to flirt thier last with Tom Lefroy. Just when we thought that the brouhaha created by last year’s wobbly bio-pic of your youth, Becoming Jane, had settled down a bit, the present owners of a miniature portrait of your ‘puppy love’ Mr. Lefroy have offered it for sale at the Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair, June 12th to 18th, in London. The online news agencies have been aflutter with the news my dear Jane, and I fear the gossip is less than kind.
- THE real-life inspiration for TV sexbomb Mr Darcy has been revealed – as a skinny GEEK, The Sun
- Austen’s Real-life Mr. Darcy a Frail Wimp, NineMSN
- Jane Austen’s real Mr. Darcy had Girlish Looks, The Telegraph
- The Real Mr. Darcy is no Colin Firth, UPI Entertainment News
Some poor misguide souls have even gone so far as to claim that Mr. Lefroy looks like a “skinny geek“, “a pale wimp“, “limp lettuce“, “and a wispy-haired girlie, who looks so delicate that he might even weigh less than Elizabeth Bennet.”
You would have held the memory of your friend Jane too in tender regret I am sure. – But the Providence of God has restored me – & may I be more fit to appear before him when I am summoned, than I sh’d have been now! – Sick or Well, beleive me ever your attached friend. J. Austen Letter to Anne Sharp, 22 May 1817
Janeites with deep pockets and warm hearts will be winging their way to London for the June 24th auction of a first edition of Emma being offered at Bonham’s Auction House. The rare three volume presentation copy of Jane Austen’s fourth and final novel to be published in her lifetime was a gift from the authoress to Anne Sharp, a dear friend and previous governess to her brother Edward Austen Knight’s daughter Fanny at Godmersham, Kent.
Bonham’s online catalogue description contains some interesting facts.
Jane Austen was allocated twelve presentation copies by the publisher John Murray. Of these, nine were sent to family members (including Jane herself), one to the librarian of the Prince Regent (to whom the work was dedicated), and one to Countess Morley, these last under obligation from the publisher. The present copy is the only one given to a personal friend, testament to the strength of Jane’s feelings for Anne.
First editions of Jane Austen’s novels can garner healthy prices. A November 2007 article in Antiquarian Books listed a recent sale of a three volume set of Sense and Sensibility by Bloomsbury Auctions in New York for $48,000.00. (1) Because the ‘Anne Sharp’ edition of Emma has unique provenance, and no known presentation copies of Emma have ever hit the market before, Bonham’s is anticipating a sale price between £50,000 to £70,000. This could be quite a windfall for its present UK owner who had the volumes shelved in their family library for three generations without a clue as to how their ancestors acquired them. One wonders what else they have loitering about, and why they chose this moment to dispose of them!
Godmersham Park, Kent, home of the Edward Austen Knight family circa 1804
Anne Sharp served as governess to Fanny Knight (1793-1882) Jane Austen’s niece, at Godmersham from 1804 to 1806, resigning for health reasons. (2) She is mentioned fondly several times in Jane Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra and in this wonderful passage from Claire Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen. Continue reading
Sourcebooks has recently released the second novel in The Pemberley Chronicles series entitled The Women of Pemberley by author Rebecca Ann Collins. This is the first North American printing of this novel which had been previously released in Australia in 1998, and is part of a ten book sequel series of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice.
The Women of Pemberley continues the story of Pride and Prejudice’s children of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy and Jane and Charles Bingley and other familiar characters. The narrative is told in five chapters, each focused on five young women; Emma, Emily, Cassandra, Isabella and Josie and progresses through several years of their lives. Many of the same themes favored by Jane Austen such as courtship and marriage are present, but Ms. Collins’ pen is much broader, taking the characters and plots outside the realm of “three or four families in a country village” and introduces social, political and historical context to the plot. With The Women of Pemberley, we have entered the Victorian era, and witness the great change and industrial progress in England through the lives of her characters.
Recently, Austenprose received correspondence from author Rebecca Ann Collins in response to our post in April regarding her comments on Austen sequels in the book Jane Austen: Antipodean Views. She was both amused and intrigued by our comments and the strong reaction by readers, and wanted to elaborate and clarify her views further.
In the spirit of fair game, and the fact that most true Janeites want their share of the conversation, we are including her comments for the edification and enjoyment of our readers.
Rebecca Ann Collins writes –
Having read your exceedingly diverting comments and the variety of opinions of your correspondents on the subject of Jane Austen sequels- I was wondering if you will permit me to contribute to the conversation.
I would like to make a few points. Continue reading
It was a sweet view — sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive…It might be safely viewed with all its appendages of prosperity and beauty, its rich pastures, spreading flocks, orchard in blossom, and light column of smoke ascending. Emma, Chapter 42
An orchard in bloom in June? Did Jane Austen get her seasonal timing wrong? Most fruit trees bloom in May, as my apple-trees in the Pacific Northwest will confirm. This anomaly is unusual, since Austen is so correct with other facts throughout her novels according to scholar R. W. Chapman. Many have questioned this slip-up, including Jane Austen’s brother Edward, who pointed out the discrepancy to her, ‘Jane, I wish you would tell me where you get those apple-trees of yours that come into bloom in July?‘ Well, Edward, it was June but we’re splitting hairs here.
There are two possible explanations; one by a scholar and the other by a meteorologist. In the book Is Heathcliff a Murderer: Great Puzzles in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (new edition 2002), author John Sutherland questions Austen’s timing in chapter two, Apple blossoms in June? His creative theory prompted a few polite objections from leading authorities; Dr. Claire Lamont and Deirdre le Faye, which are included in the next volume in the series, Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennet?: Further Puzzles in Classic Fiction (1999). They pretty much shoot holes in his theory. You can read the discussion here and draw your own conclusions, but honestly, I was so relieved to discover that a meteorologist Euan Nisbet of the Royal Holloway College in London was a Janeite, and has closely studied Jane Austen’s astute observance of accurate weather in her novels and wrote this enlightening article. Continue reading