Holiday bear display in the Gift Shop window at the Jane Austen Centre
The advenure continues as intern Virginia Claire Tharrington reports in on her experience at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England.
Christmas is coming to the Jane Austen Centre, which as exciting as it is, means that I will be leaving soon. I had my final Jane Austen class this week with my tutor Felicity James. This has been such an amazing class partnered with my time at the Jane Austen Centre. I have been working diligently on my dissertation this past week. It is due on Tuesday so I hope it will be “ship shape and Bristol fashion”! I leave for home in a week. I cannot believe how the time has flown by. It does not seem like that long ago that I was just arriving in Bath wide eyed and ready to go. I am still enjoying every minute of Bath but it has become comfortable, which it should, and has really begun to feel like home in some ways. Though I am missing my family more and more at the beginning of this Christmas season!
Christmas at the Centre has been coming on rather slowly after Memorial Sunday but this last week it has been kicked into high gear. (Perhaps I am just noticing it more this week since it is after Thanksgiving). There have been Christmas Markets, Christmas Music, Christmas Carols and all sorts of other festive things. The Centre itself is changed in the exhibition. There are red boards talking about Christmas in Jane Austen’s novels, from Emma to Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. It must have been a lovely time of year for the Austen’s with family coming to visit and the houses full of people and spirit. It makes me miss my family a little in this Christmas season and though I will see them very soon, I was sad to not be with them for Thanksgiving. Nothing means Christmas to me more than family and it seems like that what Christmas meant to Jane as well. People coming to stay and visit seems to be what Christmas focused on, like the Gardiners coming to visit the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice, Emma going to the Christmas Eve party and the very loud Musgrove children at Christmas. The decorations at the Centre have been lovely for Christmas. There are holly, wreaths, berries, and every other kind of greenery. The story of the first Christmas tree is also in the exhibition. It has really become a festive time of year and I have even started buying presents! (Because I want to prove that I have bought things other than copies of Pride and Prejudice… I have 25 that I got in England now!!)
Virginia and her Jane Austen classmates
For our final Jane Austen class we talked about the second half of Persuasion and focused on the changed ending. I think the alternate ending is to die for and that she made the right decision to change it. Persuasion is one of my favorite novels it was great to end with it because it because it is a wonderful Bath novel! The last part of class though we had a little party. Felicity made little cakes, like ones Jane herself might have eaten, and we did charades and learned about Bullet Pudding. If you don’t know what Bullet Pudding is here is a part of a letter from Jane’s niece Fanny in 1804 explaining it.
“I was surprised to hear that you did not know what a Bullet Pudding is, but as you don’t I will endeavour to describe it as follows: You must have a large pewter dish filled with flour which you must pile up into a sort of pudding with a peek at top. You must then lay a bullet at top and everybody cuts a slice of it, and the person that is cutting it when it falls must poke about with their noses and chins till they find it and then take it out with their mouths of which makes them strange figures all covered with flour but the worst is that you must not laugh for fear of the flour getting up your nose and mouth and choking you: You must not use your hands in taking the Bullet out.” (letter Godmersham Park, 17 January 1804)
Now I don’t know about everyone else, but I can see Jane Austen playing Bullet Pudding and having a blast at it. It seems as if the Austen’s might have been a jolly bunch at Christmas time. Perhaps I will convince my family to try it this year.
Virginia and her Jane Austen class instructor Felicity James
After Jane Austen class and working at the Centre my time this week has been FOCUSED on my dissertation which is due on Tuesday. It is coming along nicely and I have already gone over the minimum word count so I am not worried about that aspect of it at all, I just want to make sure it is the best piece of work I can put forth. My paper itself is on Jane Austen Adaptations and the agenda that each of the films take with Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. I have been very interested in my paper because I have very decided opinions about many adaptations so this has been a way for me to express my frustrations and delights for many of the older and newer movies and miniseries.
As my time in Bath is coming to an end I cannot help but start to think about everything that has happened and how much I have learned from this experience. It has truly been a dream come true!
Till next week then!
Virginia Claire Tharrington
Intern, the Jane Austen Centre, Bath, England
Read all of Virginia’s previous reports in the Austen Intern Archives