Team Tilney Panel
© Austenprose The Friday morning wake-up call came way too early for Deb (Jane Austen in Vermont) and me after a previous full day of travel, registration and evening pre-conference events at the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting, Jane Austen and the Abbey: Mystery Mayhem and Muslin in Portland. Bleary eyed, we headed to breakfast at the hotel dining room, then Deb was off to her three hour Regional Coordinators Training Session, while I attended Team Tilney Explains It All in the Grand Ball. This lively panel discussion was moderated by, quite possibly Henry Tilney’s number one fan, Margaret Sullivan (AustenBlog), and comprised of three fellow Henryite’s: Kelly Brown a Gothic literature enthusiast, Heather Laurence (Solitary Elegance) and Lynn Marie Macy a Northanger Abbey playwright. There was also a very special guest panelist, the Rev. Henry Tilney himself who convincingly greeted us with “Hello ladies. Look at your Mister Darcy. Now back to me. Now look at Captain Wentworth. Now back to me. Sadly, those gentlemen are not me. But if they knew enough about muslin to buy their own cravats and were more nice than wise, they could be like me.” * parodying the Old Spice Man commercials, but through the unique lens of Jane Austen’s most witty, charming and dashing hero bar none, Da Man himself, Henry Tilney. It was a great beginning to what promised to be a day of total Jane Austen immersion. (*quote from AustenBlog, and written by Heather Laurence)
Ellen Fuller and Mr. Tilney
Next I was off to shop with the passion of Mrs. Allen at the Milsom Street Emporium where an elegant array of tempting Jane Austen inspired books, clothing and tea merchants were presenting their wares for inspection. Books, my passion in life, drew me immediately to the extensive display by Jane Austen Books. It was impressive and I quickly purchased four hardback first editions of Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mysteries Series for her to sign later, at a wonderful price. Next booth over was the JASNA Wisconsin Region’s display of their “A Year of Jane Austen” 2011 Calendar which I promptly purchased. For any of you unaware of this treasure, each month is filled with facts from Jane Austen’s life, events in her novels and great quotes. This year’s calendar honors the 200th anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility with color images from the vintage editions illustrated by C.E. Brock. You can purchase them online too.
Beautifully embroidered Georgian-era frock by Susan
At one end of the Milsom Street Emporium was an amazing display of period clothing presented by Margaret Phillips and Rebecca Morrison-Peck and designed and executed by the talented Susan Pasco of Seattle. I was so taken aback by the fabrics, style and incredible embroidery, that I imposed upon her modesty and asked Susan about her inspiration and back story. Historical costumes are her passion and she has created and lovingly sewn these creations for herself to wear to events sponsored by Somewhere in Time, Unlimited, a social and sewing group in the Seattle area. On display were costumes from 1775-1820, my favorite being the Georgian-era frock (above) whose embroidery was so intricate, that must have taken years to complete. Susan honestly told me she stopped keeping track of the time it takes to complete a garment. Since she makes them only for herself, what’s the point?
Susan Pasco and Mary Hafner-Laney
After lunch (yes, there is a lot of nourishment required to sustain ones strength at these conferences) our first Plenary speaker was Stephanie Barron, author of the bestselling Jane Austen Mysteries series. I just reviewed her latest novel, Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron and loved it! (On an aside, sitting next to me by pure coincidence was one of my readers Elspeth (AprilFool) who had participated in the Georgette Heyer Celebration here in August and won a copy of Black Sheep!)
Barron spoke eloquently on Suspicious Characters, Red Herrings, and Unreliable Detectives: Elements of Mystery in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. It was interesting to learn the devices that Jane Austen used, even before murder mysteries became a genre, to shape her story adding intrigue and tension to Catherine Morland’s adventure to Bath and then to Northanger Abbey. After, she graciously opened up the discussion to the audience. One query was from a fan of her Jane Austen Mysteries series wanting to know why she had killed off Lord Harold Trowbridge, Jane Austen’s love interest, spy and Rogue-About-Town, in the sixth novel in the series? Responding that it was one of the hardest things she had ever done as a writer, but it had to be done, she added that readers will be happy to know that he will be featured in a short story entitled Jane And The Gentleman Rogue in the upcoming anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann Nattress. *swoon* Smelling salts were required to revive me from my seat. To hear my book and name mentioned out loud for the first time to such a large crowd will be an unforgettable moment in my life. Thanks Stephanie.
My first Breakout session was with Ellen Moody, “People that Marry Can Never Part”: Real and Romantic Gothicism in Northanger Abbey. Even though The Mysteries of Udolpho has been credited as the main Gothic novel that Austen parodied in Northanger Abbey, Professor Moody explored similarities between four other Gothic novels that Jane Austen might have read in their original French or translations to inspire her Gothic story. And, my second Breakout session was with attorney James Nagle of the Puget Sound Chapter of JASNA, Dismemberment in the Library with a Quill Pen. Regency England’s rules of succession have always been a challenge to me, but now I can happily say that the words primogeniture, entail and jointure have new meanings, and when next I read Sense and Sensibility or any novels set before the inheritance laws were changed in England in 1925, I will be well ready. Mr. Nagle gave a lively and entertaining talk on a dry subject that in my mind has always been more than a muddle.
Wild Rose Garland Dancers and green sneaker clad musican
Next Deb and I tromped six blocks (or it seemed liked it in high heels) to the Portland Art Museum for the cocktail reception and performance by the Wild Rose Garland Dancers. The Museum was beautiful, but as we arrived there was already a huge queue for one food table, and another for the bar. Deb and I divided forces and eventually conquered, only to discover that there were few chairs in a room filled with people who had experience a long day and also wanted a seat. Besides the grumbling crowd, there was happy moment in the evening for me when again the person next to me recognized me! Imagine that? Nancy had also participated in the Georgette Heyer Celebration and won a copy of The Masqueraders! God bless Georgette Heyer. We all lined up against the back wall like true wallflowers and watched the dancers and listened to ancient tunes that sounded vaguely familiar to an American Civil War tune that an old guy from Tennessee might have played on his harmonica in Gone With The Wind. As the wine went to our heads and exhaustion got the better of us, we made more friends in the wallflower group and started to pick out attendees and match them physically with Jane Austen characters. All agreed that the older lady blocking our view by taking photos of the dancers was definitely Mrs. Bates. Neither could have heard our pleas to step aside. One of our group of gigglers had a great attitude. She did not mind standing where she was because of the view. View we asked? She only had to point to the right at the backside of the Grecian statue abutting the room before we understood her meaning.
Distracting Portland Museum statue
After dinner (ah, a seat) we attended Jeff Nigro’s lecture and slide show “Mystery Meets Muslin: Regency Gothic Dress in Art, Fashion and Theatre.” If you think that Fanny Price’s hurricane hair in the 2007 adaptation of Mansfield Park was a crime reportable to the fashion police, then you would have found plenty more faux pas to tell tales of in illustrations from the Regency-era books and paintings that got it really wrong too. It does not make Fanny’s plight any more pitiable, since she was a recent interpretation and the designer should have known better, but it does make it more laughable, if possible.
My last event of the evening was my most anticipated and joyous of the day. Six on my authors in my anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It were also attending the conference, and I could not pass up the opportunity to round up the troops for a nightcap and a bit of camaraderie. In attendance where Pamela Aidan, Margaret Sullivan, Stephanie Barron, Syrie James, Diana Birchall and Laurie Viera Rigler. The creative energy emanating from our table could power Chawton Cottage for a week! I told the tale of the creation of the anthology and the authors gave a brief description of each of their stories. Then we got down to the real business, gossiping about the publishing industry.
Off to bed, but not before a good debriefing from Deb on what I had missed from her Breakout sessions and overall Janeite breaking news. It was a long day in which I have never heard or talked about Jane Austen as much in my life! It will remain one of my most memorable.
Signing off from Portland,
My profuse apologies to my readers for the delay in posting. There was just too much to say, the hour late and the free Internet in the lobby in my pink fuzzy slippers too embarrassing.
“Me? Yes; I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.” Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 16