“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”
“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.” Caroline Bingley, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 8
One of the most popular Jane Austen websites on the Internet has been The Republic of Pemberley, where Janeites can find a “haven in a world programmed to misunderstand obsession with things Austen.”
For over ten years we have enjoyed the delights of joining with other Jane Austen enthusiasts and authorities in civil discourse on a myriad of Austen topics ranging from Jane Austen’s life and times, her novels and, – if Mr. Darcy is truly a snob or just shy! It is a wonderful respite for discussion, an incredible resource of information, and a delight to our sensations with beautiful images; – all logically organized, civilly moderated, and beautifully presented by the talented Republic of Pemberley volunteer committee.
When the committee decided that it was time for a re-design of the site in 2003, they did not have to look far to find a talented and qualified artist within their ranks. The beautiful drawings of stately homes and Regency images enhancing the site are credited to committee member Nan, who holds a BFA, from the venerable Parsons School of Design in New York City, and a MA, from New York University, ITP at Tisch School of the Arts.
Re-designing a large website such a Pemberley is a huge project, and the images were very important to relay the theme and tone that the committee had in mind. Nan explained “I was free to choose whatever I thought worked best, but the process was unusually collaborative. The whole committee made suggestions, did research, shared ideas and then I made the final choices about images.” This joint intellectual endeavor exemplifies the civil atmosphere of Pemberley which is somewhat unique. “Just like the running of the site itself, the whole committee was involved in the project. We did indeed have a theme, which we jokingly called the “gestalt”. Initially, we wanted to use only images of Regency architecture to convey the essence of a topic, but it didn’t always translate, particularly with the auxiliary pages at Pemberley. It was easy enough to select structures for the actual discussion boards, but pages like “Recommended Reading”, “Chat” and “Milestones” forced us to branch out into Regency furniture.”
Nan’s inspiration came from her early admiration of Jane Austen’s writing that started in her junior year of High School. “For the most part her craftsmanship feels effortless, like she sat down to write a friendly letter and something brilliant flowed out of its own accord. Of course, I’m sure it was anything but effortless, yet her work gives the appearance of it. I’m very jealous of that kind of cleverness.”
The theme of architectural images of the stately homes and public building from the movie locations of the Jane Austen adaptations, and common Regency objects that Jane Austen may have encountered in her life emerged. “While it took several months for us to finalize the look and feel, theme, images, etc., the physical drawings were finished quickly. It’s hard to quantify because I’d often work on several at once, moving from one drawing to another when I got bored. Once in a while I would finish one in a single setting and that would take no more than 3 or 4 hours.” That is amazing. Only three to four hours to complete such miniature jewels!
“The Pemberley drawings were done entirely in various types of pencil: woodless, HB & 2B graphite, and plain old school-grade #2 pencils. The color washes were done later in Photoshop, my very favorite piece of software. It was really wonderful to spend time drawing for a change. I love it, but have no time. All those years in art classes and practicality has forced me to into an all-consuming job where I use almost none of those skills. It’s a shame, really.” We agree!
Nan has her own favorite images; the lantern from the search page, the interior of a gentleman’s library table filled with books, a globe and small statuary from the library board and the oriel window at Montacute House in Somerset that served as Cleveland, home of the Palmers in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. My particular favorite is the stunning image of the dome of the Music Room at the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. Her choice of vantage point of the dome accentuates the Moorish architecture with its sweeping circular lines and intricate detailed windows perfectly.
In retrospect Nan admits that she “really liked that everything is so unified. It appeals to my sense of order to have the entire site be consistent in look and feel. I’m at the boards multiple times per day, every day so I almost don’t notice the headers anymore. However, once in a while I’ll stop and click on a board header (particularly Virtual Views or the Library) and think, “How did I do that?”
Indeed Nan! We are all amazement also, and are delighted at how well it turned out! Thank you for your thoughts on the project and for enhancing our enjoyment of Jane Austen and her world.
* Images ©The Republic of Pemberley.