Saturday, 27 December 2008

Jane Austen Quote of the Week – Week 36

This week, the last weekend of 2008, I’d like to pick something from my favourite book ‘Persuasion’ about the inner strength of a woman. No, I’m not talking of Anne Elliot, though she was one mighty woman of her own. This quote is about her friend, Mrs. Smith, who used to be a rather wealthy woman but by the time of Anne’s visit to her humble quarters in Bath, she had become an ill woman of barely any means to live on. As we all know, Jane was very sick when she wrote the last chapters of ‘Persuasion’, and I think she channelled her strength through her descriptions of Mrs. Smith. Yes, I do think that Mrs. Smith resembles Jane Austen in her later days.

Persuasion Volume II Chapter 5:


Anne found in Mrs. Smith the good sense and agreeable manners which she almost ventured to depend on, and a disposition to converse and be cheerful beyond her expectation. Neither the dissipations of the past – and she had lived very much in the world, nor the restrictions of the present; neither sickness nor sorrow seemed to have closed her heart or ruined her spirit.

In the course of a second visit she talked with great openness, and Anne’s astonishment increased. She could scarcely imagine a more cheerless situation in itself than Mrs. Smith’s. She had been very fond of her husband, – she had buried him. She had been used to affluence, – it was gone. She had no child to connect her with life and happiness again, no relations to assist in the arrangement of perplexed affairs, no health to make all the rest supportable./…/Yet, in spite of all this, Anne had reason to believe that [Mrs. Smith] had moments only of languor and depression, to hours of occupation and enjoyment. How could it be? – She watched – observed – reflected – and finally determined that this was not a case of fortitude or of resignation only. – A submissive spirit might be patient, a strong understanding would supply resolution, but here was something more; here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself, which was from Nature alone. It was the choicest gift of Heaven; and Anne viewed her friend as one of those instances in which, by a merciful appointment, it seems designed to counter-balance almost every other want.


Now tell me my dearest friends, if Jane Austen was not talking of herself now? As if she said that ‘Although my body is terminally ill now, I am not resigning to despair. Not ever.’

I consider myself very lucky now. Now and then I had to remind myself to take it easy, lest my body will suffer, and will definitely launch a protest that will force me for a bed rest (my Boxing Day was spent in the bed, due to a sudden attack of gastritis, my fault really…). But, just to recall the friendships we have shared in this blog, some of them getting to sisterhood level even… I remind myself that I can make the best of my life. Jane Austen could do that; and though I will never be a great authoress like her, I want to give the best of me as well.

On that note, have a Merry Xmas (once more) and Happy New Year. May 2009 be kind to us, more peaceful and loving, and may our spirits be strengthened to give the best of us to this world.

With lots of love,

Pic 1. The Wordsworth Classics variant of Persuasion cover, from the Old Grey Pony
Pic 2. A beautiful Xmas and New Year card from our dearest Mariana

Thursday, 25 December 2008


I just wanted to wish everyone a very merry christmas from us here at the Becoming Jane Fansite.

Enjoy your time with your loved ones and cherish every moment.

Thank you for taking the time to support our blog.

Love to all.
Pic: wikipedia portrait of Jane

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Jane Austen Quote of the Week- Week 35

I was endeavouring to do a christmas quote for this week. I thought that Mansfield Park was the obvious choice for this decision.

This quote is not particularly related to christmas or its festivities (it simply references it!) but I think it is wonderful prose and a real gem from our Jane; particularly the line "Varnish and gilding hide many stains".

It is taken from a letter written from Miss Crawford to Fanny;

Vol III, Chapter XIV (Penguin Edition)

"from what I hear, poor Mr. Bertram has a bad chance of ultimate recovery. I thought little of his illness at first. I looked upon him as the sort of person to be made a fuss with, and to make a fuss himself in any trifling disorder, and was chiefly concerned for those who had to nurse him; but now it is confidently asserted that he is really in a decline, that the symptoms are most alarming, and that part of the family, at least, are aware of it. If it be so, I am sure you must be included in that part, that discerning part, and therefore entreat you to let me know how far I have been rightly informed. I need not say how rejoiced I shall be to hear there has been any mistake, but the report is so prevalent that I confess I cannot help trembling. To have such a fine young man cut off in the flower of his days is most melancholy. Poor Sir Thomas will feel it dreadfully. I really am quite agitated on the subject. Fanny, Fanny, I see you smile and look cunning, but, upon my honour, I never bribed a physician in my life. Poor young man! If he is to die, there will be _two_ poor young men less in the world; and with a fearless face and bold voice would I say to any one, that wealth and consequence could fall into no hands more deserving of them. It was a foolish precipitation last Christmas, but the evil of a few days may be blotted out in part. Varnish and gilding hide many stains. It will be but the loss of the Esquire after his name. With real affection, Fanny, like mine, more might be overlooked. Write to me by return of post, judge of my anxiety, and do not trifle with it. Tell me the real truth, as you have it from the fountainhead. And now, do not trouble yourself to be ashamed of either my feelings or your own. Believe me, they are not only natural, they are philanthropic and virtuous."

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Bilbo's second birthday gift for Jane Austen

~This is the second of two parts of Bilbo’s birthday presents for dearest Jane Austen. Thanks a lot, Bilbo!~

The second item I wish to submit for Jane's birthday is a little panegyric about my favorite Austen 'extension', Sanditon, Jane Austen's Last Novel Completed, by 'Jane Austen and "Another Lady"'. It was copyrighted in 1975 by a Marie Dobbs (apparently aka Anne Telscombe), but has been reprinted since several times, I believe. Of all the many books purported to reproduce the experience of Jane Austen's fictional creations, this one comes by far the closest in my humble opinion. The story reasonably supposes Carlotte Heywood to be Jane's intended heroine and Sidney Parker the hero. Unlike in many extensions, the characters speak and act naturally, much as they would if Jane had written it herself. Although obviously no one really knows how Jane intended the story to play out, the happenings here are highly akin to her other novels in feel, dwelling on the doings over a limited period of time of, if I remember the phrase properly, "3 or 4 families in a country village". The gentle satire is there, and the comical characters are fully developed, but the main focus is on the internal feelings of the heroine.

Here is one of my favorite passages near the middle of the book:
…. She went on happily talking about her exotic shells till they were interrupted again by Sidney, this time calling them across to admire a particularly tasteless shell box his sisters had just bought. It was entirely covered with what Miss Lambe had just described as clumsy and common shells and had ‘Brinshore’ inscribed on the lid in tiny pebbles. While Sir Edward talked of its ‘frangible appearance’ masking an ‘adamantine construction’ and racked his brains for a suitable quotation about shells, Sidney silently passed the box around for inspection. The Miss Beauforts agreed it was exquisite; Miss Denham thought their own villagers should be encouraged to produce similar boxes with ‘Sanditon’ on the lid. Miss Brereton allowed it to be pretty; Miss Lambe faltered and, whispering it was ‘very interesting’, retreated into her usual silence. Charlotte, rejoicing in having avoided all comment on the box when it was dutifully praised by everyone else, realised rather too late that Sidney had not drawn Miss Lambe and herself into the group from motives of consideration alone. ‘I do not think we have yet heard Miss Heywood’s opinion,’ he said with a polite bow in her direction which informed her he had let her off over seaweed pictures merely to trap her more entertainingly over shell-work boxes. Charlotte now heartily regretted she had missed the opportunity of emulating Miss Lambe’s almost inaudible ‘very interesting’. She began stammering that she was naturally that of course she had given her opinion — but found she could no longer avoid doing so, Sidney having produced a lull in the general conversation by advancing towards her and holding out the box. She took a fleeting glance up at him, saw the gleam of amusement in his eyes and said with dignity, ‘It is extremely pretty.’ ‘You would not call it an — ah — unnecessary object?’ ‘Not at all, in this case,’ she replied, biting her lip to refrain from laughing. She was willing to concede Sidney had outwitted her; but she refused to look up at him in open acknowledgement of the victory. She kept her own eyes very firmly on the box, determined to reserve her right to that measure of independence at least. But Sidney, equally determined to impose his will on anyone with whom he chose to exert himself, continued to stand in front of her till in sudden embarrassment that everyone must be watching them — in a rush of confusion she was unable to control — Charlotte weakened and glanced up again. She had frequently found the teasing expression of Sidney’s eyes to be exasperating, and had every intention of meeting it with a blank look of innocent gravity. But before she could check herself, she discovered she was smiling back at him involuntarily and admitting that, exasperating or not, Sidney’s teasing gleam had quite become irresistible to her. In that moment, as they stood smiling at one another, Charlotte was conscious of several contradictory sensations, of which the chief were these: annoyance with herself for being incapable of governing her own actions, satisfaction that Sidney had won this very minor victory over her, amusement, embarrassment — an odd something between perturbation and pleasure — and, above all else, a flutter of joyful spirits which made her feel she had strayed somehow into a most unfamiliar world.

And this from the next chapter:
He held out the small parcel, carefully wrappcd and tied, and accompanied by a letter thrust under the string. There could be no doubt of his burning curiosity with regard to the contents. Even Mrs Parker, in quieter fashion, appeared wary and worried over this impulsive gesture of her brother-in-law in sending a letter and a gift to their young guest. Very conscious of their intent observation, Charlotte accepted the parcel, laid it aside, extracted the letter and opened it. Knowing she would have to read it aloud to satisfy Mr Parker, she had some misgivings herself; and from her still imperfect knowledge of Sidney’s character, was dreading what it might prove to contain. She glanced over it. Dear Miss Heywood, Forgive this hurried note. I could not resist buying the accompanying gift in Brinshore yesterday. I believe I intended it at the time as a present for my brother, but on reflection, have decided he might not appreciate it, and will have to content himself with the ‘Guide to Watering Places’ which I had already purchased for him. Moreover, as I was indeed lucky enough to find an exact replica of the object my sisters bought, it now occurs to me that my own family are well provided with mementoes of Brinshore. Your own admiration was so dearly expressed that I feel I can do no better than bestow my rash purchase on you. I cannot, in any case, take it to London, as it is too fragile for me to pack And you, I am sure, will agree such an ‘extremely pretty’ and ‘necessary’ box deserves better than to be broken. Yours etc. Sidney Parker. Suppressing a smile, Charlotte handed the letter to Mrs. Parker, and cautiously unwrapping the layers of paper, revealed the small box, labelled ‘Brinshore’. ‘What’s this? What’s this?’ cried Mr Parker. ‘A box all covered with shells? And why does it have Brinshore on it in those little coloured pebbles? What does one do with it? And what can Sidney mean sending such a thing to Miss Heywood?’ ‘Sidney says he meant to give it to you,’ said Mrs Parker, looking up from the letter. ‘It is clear enough what his intentions were. So exactly his sense of humour! He thinks it would have been very amusing to give you a box with Brinshore written on it. She handed the letter to her husband. ‘It is one of his jokes.’ ‘Then why did he give it to Miss Heywood?’ demanded Mr Parker in bewilderment. ‘Would you like it?’ offered Charlotte a little fearfully. Quite suddenly she found she had become very possessive over the ugly little box.

‘Me? Like a useless box labelled Brinshore? No, no. Sidney is quite in the right there. “On reflection, I have decided he might not appreciate it.” Very proper. But let me see it. So this is the type of thing Brinshore goes in for! Do they think that will attract visitors? Yes, yes, I see it is one of Sidney’s jokes, as Mary says. But good Lord! I would not have such a thing in the house. Ah! So Susan and Diana bought one too — precisely what they would do, of course. My sisters are very worthy women, Miss Heywood, but without a scrap of taste to share between them. You should see some of the knick-knacks they keep about their house — tables crammed with ornamental pill-boxes and extravagant gewgaws. It does not surprise me in the least to find them adding to the number. Well, it is funny, I suppose. “Too fragile for him to pack.” And did you really call it an “extremely pretty box”?’
‘I believe I did say so,’ admitted Charlotte. ‘Your sisters had already bought one and the Miss Beauforts were admiring it — and Sir Edward — in short, I remember saying something of the sort.’ ‘Ha! I see how it all was. Many a time have I been forced to admire some hideous thing Diana has bought and Sidney has teased me about it afterwards. He can never resist these little attempts to be humorous at other people’s expense.’ The Parkers had decided to laugh at Sidney’s unexpected letter to Miss Heywood; and the box was now firmly established as one of Sidney’s jokes, to be looked at and smiled at over their breakfast, but not given another thought. And Charlotte, who also smiled at it, was not really surprised to discover it meant far more than a joke to her. She was grateful the box had been presented in such a way that she could keep it without arousing anybody’s suspicions.

From later that chapter:
But when she picked up her own box and carefully carried it off to her room — not forgetting the accompanying letter — it never occurred to her that she, too, might be doing something which Sidney intended. A young lady’s exact estimate of her own charms would be a difficult matter to determine but Charlotte certainly never estimated hers as meriting the full treatment of one of Sidney’s intricate little plots. If she could have brought herself to believe he had purchased the box especially for her, and devoted a great deal of thought to composing a seemingly hasty letter which made it possible for her to accept it, she would have valued the gift even more.

And, finally, from a later chapter:
Charlotte had her own suspicions that Sidney may have realised by then that the prudence and common sense he teased her about were no longer sufficient barriers to her falling in love if he persisted in his attentions. Perhaps he had guessed it even earlier in the tea rooms? But his kindness, frankness and cheerfulness towards her had never varied. Beyond paying her a few charming compliments and amusing her with gay conversation, had he done anything at all to try and gain her affection? He had, Charlotte remembered rather wryly, done nothing except — in a burst of typical high spirits — bought and bestowed on her a hideous little shell box, which she would keep as a treasured memento. And she smiled to herself a little sadly when she reflected that this — her most precious souvenir of Sanditon — was, in fact, labelled Brinshore.

As I noted, these are from near the middle of the book, so a great deal more is yet to happen to our heroine. I believe Jane would be amused. Happy birthday, Jane!

Pic 1: The completed 'Sanditon', by Jane Austen and 'another lady', from Jane Austen Centre, UK
Pic 2: Pine Cove Cottage by Thomas Kinkade. (Icha: I wonder if the house in Sanditon looked a bit like this...)
Pic 3: Sea shell, from the Seashellmotel

Bilbo's first birthday gift for dearest Jane

~This is the first of two parts of Bilbo’s birthday presents for dearest Jane Austen. Part two will be posted shortly. Thanks a lot, Bilbo!~

Here are two items I would like to submit in commemoration of Jane Austen’s birthday.

The first item is a review of the script of our favorite movie, Becoming Jane, apparently written in April 2006 by "Miss Schuster-Slatt" (aka Diana Birchall, author of Mrs Darcy’s Dilemma). I found the review posted at While this review was written before the movie was produced, and her later review of the actual movie was less positive, I find my own experience of the movie in much greater agreement with this:

I have been meaning to post here because I read Kevin Hood’s screenplay Becoming Jane a year or so ago, and wanted to report on it as there has been so much speculation about the script, but needed to find time to reread it first. I should explain that I am a writer (author of Mrs Darcy’s Dilemma, a best-selling P & P sequel) who works as a story analyst at a major Hollywood studio, and was sent the script by a friend. These things get around, and because of my lifelong interest in Austen I have actually been sent no fewer than four screenplays about the life of Jane Austen in the past couple of years! Yes, really. And Kevin Hood’s was by far, unquestionably, hands down, the best. He is apparently an accomplished English playwright, and his skill and confidence show in the sheer structural economy with which he introduces the large cast of Austen family characters and manipulates them in a natural and unforced way, with charm and humor. I had to admire it; it was one of the few screenplays I’ve read in years where I actually thought I couldn’t do better myself, despite my knowledge stemming from thirty years’ immersion in the subject. I don’t mean to sound arrogant here: I don’t write plays or screenplays myself, just books, and my job is actually reading novels for the studio, but hundreds of thousands of screenplays are circulated in this town, and the vast majority are ill conceived and written. So to “do better” than most of them is not difficult, and in fact the other Austen scripts were better than most of them, too. But Hood’s is something more than that. He is what Jane Austen would call a reading man, but also possesses a light touch. The other Austen screenplays are by reading people but without the dexterity, or have the light touch but are not by reading people! Kevin Hood’s drama is not a literal, factual, faithful, plodding replication of precise events in Jane Austen’s life, and if you’re going to read (or see) it constantly exclaiming, “But that never happened! Jane Austen never had a neighbor anything like Lady Catherine! (That’s your Lady Gresham.) Henry Austen never behaved like that in London! If that character is supposed to be Blackall she never met him that early in her life!” then it’s possible that prejudice might prevent you from enjoying it. Justifiable prejudice, indeed, for no one doubts that we Janeites approach these things with our critical antennae very suspiciously extended; but this is a charming story and deserves an open mind. And I can at least explode one misconception that seems to have been assiduously spread by the project’s most ignorant, uninformed man who ever dared to be a press agent (whom I don’t think actually read the script): it does not make it appear that Jane Austen up and decided to become A Novelist because she was disappointed in Tom Lefroy! The script presents her as already a dedicated writer, already singular, already unfond of the marriage market and the idea of being a poor animal, before she meets him! (I can hear the collective sigh of relief.) Yes, it is a love story, in which she has a romance with Tom Lefroy and is disappointed. It takes touches from Mr Darcy and elsewhere and attributes them to Lefroy’s character, a ploy which must be fictional. The poverty of the Austens is played up and surely JA’s parents never pressured her to marry as these do. There are quibbles, but all is accomplished with such panache and confidence that the script finally wins us over. There is invention galore: Eliza is more involved in the Lefroy matter than she could really have been (but why not bring her in); and there are scenes such as a sneaking-away to Astley’s and a meeting with Ann Radcliffe that are purely imaginary, but fun. The prominence in the plot of Judge Langlois, some changed names, the presence of Jane Austen at a bloody birth, an aborted elopement – yes, considerable invention. This is fiction, but plausible fiction, done in a consistent manner, with an internal truth all its own. Most of all, Hood’s achievement is that the contingencies of the plot actually make you feel. How rare is that in a screenplay! I confess that I, jaded I, actually shed a tear, which happens perhaps twice a decade. A very effective script and I will defend it. I will further venture to say that if it is not screwed up in the production (which could easily happen…I am not an Anne Hathaway fan, but then I also wanted to beat Keira Knightley about the head with her own torn off shin bone, to paraphrase Mark Twain), judging by the screenplay alone, this has at least a good chance of being a charming, moving, enjoyable film.

I thought about omitting the last sentence from the review, with which I am in total disagreement, but decided that intellectual honesty requires its inclusion. I am a fan of Anne Hathaway, as well as of Keira Knightley, and I believe that Becoming Jane as produced amply fulfilled the review's expectations. As a further bit of intellectual honesty, I will admit there is a strongly negative review posted at by the poster of the above review; while that severely prejudiced review screams for a rebuttal, this would not be the appropriate occasion for it.

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

From our dearest video-maker Maria, Happy Birthday to You! And of course, from all of us too! 16 December 1775 - 16 December 2008; 233 years old, and still beautiful and proud!

Now, I haven't posted mine, and I will do that the end of the day. But after this one, I shall post Bilbo's and perhaps others too if anyone still want to email it to us. Michelle, where's yours? Still thinking what kind of note to play? :-D

Friday, 12 December 2008

My Birthday Gift to Jane.

I wanted to start this by referencing Claire Tomalin's wonderful biography of Jane ('Jane Austen: A Life') which I truly adore. Any of you that have not read it should definitely put it on your christmas list!

Pasted below is a beautiful extract from chapter one which introduces our Jane to the world.

All of the photos in this post were taken by me on my trip to Hampshire.

Chapter One: 1775
The winter of 1775 was a hard one. On 11 November the naturalist Gilbert White saw that the trees around his Hampshire village of Selborne had lost almost all their leaves. "Trees begin to be naked," he wrote in his diary. Fifteen miles away, higher up in the Downs, in the village of Steventon, the rector's wife was expecting the birth of her seventh child from day to day as the last leaves fell. She was thirty-six and had been married for eleven years. Four sturdy little boys ran about the parsonage and the big garden at the back, with its yard and outhouses, rising to the fields and woodland beyond. The eldest, James, at ten already showed promise as a scholar, sharing his father's taste in books, and the only daughter, Cassy, kept her mother entertained with her constant chatter as she followed her round the house and out to visit the dairy and the chickens and ducks. Cassy would be three in January. Outside Mr. Austen's study the house was seldom entirely quiet.

The November days went by and the rains set in, keeping the boys indoors; by the end of the month it was dark in the house at three in the afternoon, and dinner had to be eaten very promptly if they were to do without candles. Still no baby appeared. December came, bringing an epidemic of colds and feverish complaints. There was a sharp frost, putting ice on the ponds, enough for the boys to go sliding; then, on the 16th, White noted, "Fog, sun, sweet day."
The 16th of December was the day of Jane Austen's birth. The month's delay in her arrival inspired her father to a small joke about how he and his wife had "in old age grown such bad reckoners"; he was forty-four. The child came in the evening, he said, without much warning. There was no need for a doctor; it was rare to call one for something as routine as childbirth, and the nearest, in Basingstoke, was seven miles away over bad roads. In any case, "everything was soon happily over." They were pleased to have a second daughter, "a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny." George Austen's letter went on to talk of the prospects of a ploughing match in which he was interested, Kent against Hants for a rump of beef, weather permitting. A village rector in a remote country parish was as much a real farmer as a shepherd of souls.

The baby was immediately christened at home by her father, like all the Austen children. There would be a church ceremony later. And now winter set in in earnest. Mr. Austen's ploughing match could not take place, as snow fell steadily, thickly and persistently, drifting right up to the tops of the gates. Soon the lanes were filled and almost impassable. The poultry would not stir out of the hen house, and wild birds appeared at the kitchen door for crumbs. "Rugged, Siberian weather," wrote White, remarking that the snow formed romantic and grotesque shapes as it continued to fall and then freeze. Newborn lambs were frozen to the ground, and hares came into the gardens looking for food.

Inside the parsonage, Mrs. Austen lay upstairs in the four-poster, warmly bundled under her feather-beds, the baby in her cradle beside her, while someone else-very likely her sister-in-law Philadelphia Hancock-supervised the household, all the cleaning and cooking necessary where there were many small children, together with the extra washing for the newly delivered mother. The maids stoked the fires and boiled coppers, and when she could the washerwoman made her way from the village and toiled for a day, although laundry froze before it dried and the house was full of airing sheets and baby things. Mr. Austen might read to the children after their three o'clock dinner, but boys like to run and slide up and down stairs, and there were no carpets to dull the noise. Mrs. Austen would not be expected to set foot on the floor for two weeks at least.

As a gift I would like to post a wonderful poem written by the american poet Ted Kooser. The theme is birthday and I just love it. There is alot of depth to this poem and the interpretations/analysis is vast. I have my own personal interpretation, as I am sure you will too. Thats the beauty of personal interpretation; no one can ever criticise.

I would like to dedicate this poem to Jane. Happy Birthday.

A Birthday Poem by Ted Kooser

Just past dawn, the sun stands
with its heavy red head
in a black stanchion of trees,
waiting for someone to come
with his bucket
for the foamy white light,
and then a long day in the pasture.
I too spend my days grazing,
feasting on every green moment
till darkness calls,
and with the others
I walk away into the night,
swinging the little tin bell
of my name.

Pic 1: Steventon Rectory. Taken by myself, Rachel Kingston
Pic 2: Jane's writing desk. Taken by myself, Rachel Kingston
Pic 3: Bed cover, made by Jane, Cassandra and their mother. Taken by myself, Rachel Kingston
Pic 4: Chawton House. Taken by myself, Rachel Kingston

Jane Austen Quote of the Week: Week 34 (by Linda)

Please pardon an old Lady who is “too soon old and too late smart” for moralizing to the younger generation (I wish I had understood this message, many years ago), but just remember that Jane Austen wrote these words when she was only in her early twenties. Goodness, was she ever smart!

In this scene Elizabeth is mulling over the elopement of Wickham and Lydia.

Wickham's affection for Lydia was just what Elizabeth had expected to find it -- not equal to Lydia's for him. She had scarcely needed her present observation to be satisfied, from the reason of things, that their elopement had been brought on by the strength of her love rather than by his; and she would have wondered why, without violently caring for her, he chose to elope with her at all, had she not felt certain that his flight was rendered necessary by distress of circumstances; and if that were the case, he was not the young man to resist an opportunity of having a companion.

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 51.

It seems that Elizabeth was smart enough to figure out that Wickham’s reason for eloping was the “distress of circumstances” and “an opportunity of having a companion”. NOT TRUE LOVE.

The moral of the story is: Be very careful to know a woman’s/man’s character before committing your future happiness, companionship, fortunes, and children to that person.

The Big Questions are: “What should we know? What are you looking for? What do you want in a mate?”

My old maid French Professor gave the class some impromptu marriage advice in college one day thusly: Choose your equal in the area of finance, religion, and intellect.

At the time, some 48 years ago, I didn’t take her too seriously, but my experiences since then have made me come to realize just how true her words are.

I can’t help but wonder what else Jane has to teach us?

Linda the Librarian

Pic: Lydia Bennet and George Wickham from BBC UK

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Birthday gifts and wishes for dearest Jane Austen from Mariana

I am thrilled to post on Mariana's behalf her beautiful birthday tribute to Jane Austen. Enjoy, and thank you, Mariana!

I’ve based this analysis mainly on Jane’s surviving letters and one of her wonderful and so much loved books: Sense and Sensibility - the love story of Marianne and Willoughby, but also on one of the most important information we are so fortunate to have from one of Jane’s nephews: Tom Lefroy himself confirmed “in so many words” that he indeed loved Jane Austen - reference the letter written by Thomas Edward Preston Lefroy in August 1870 to James Edward Austen Leigh

“My late venerable uncle ... said in so many words that he was in love with her, although he qualified his confession by saying it was a boyish love. As this occurred in a friendly & private conversation, I feel some doubt whether I ought to make it public.”

Once upon a December

During Christmas and New Year in 1795-96, Jane Austen met “a very gentleman like, good-looking, pleasant young man” Tom Lefroy, while he was visiting his aunt and uncle at Ashe Rectory. Tom was at that time a law student in London attending the courts at Lincoln’s Inn. He was staying with his great-uncle, Benjamin Langlois, who exerted great influence as head of the family and was paying for Tom’s education. Jane and Tom met for the first time at one of the balls that were held during that holiday season.

Michaelmas-Christmas: When the girls meet the boys

It must have been sometime after Michaelmas term (November 2nd-25th) and before Christmas, when Tom Lefroy could come for a short visit in Hampshire.

It might well be just a simple coincidence again, possible some other reasons why Jane chose not to have her heroines falling in love in the spring or summer, but it’s very interesting that almost all Jane’s books begin in the Fall/Winter and some important events take place just around Michaelmas and Christmas, followed by visits to London or Bath on the month of January-February.

As we know from one of her surviving letters, Tom did return at Ashe sometime in November 1798 and most likely again in October 1800, accompanying his father in a visit announced by Mrs Lefroy‘s letters. Strangely enough, that winter (1800-1801) Jane moved to Bath with her parents and her sister Cassandra, a chapter of her life that reminds me so much of Anne Elliot’s story in Persuasion.

In Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwoods arrived at Barton Cottage sometime in September and then “one memorable morning” around the Michaelmas, Marianne met Willoughby.

The season of happiness: Only a month

As we know from Jane’s first letter dated January 9 1796, she met Tom and danced together only at three balls till that date. They must have been spent about a month together or even less than that if will assume the first ball took place sometime around Christmas and knowing that Tom returned to London shortly after the last ball at Ashe- on January 15th.

October was the month of happiness for Marianne when the “private balls at the park” began. One morning, at the beginning of November, only few weeks later after their first meeting, Elinor and Mrs Dashwood return home to find Marianne crying and Willoughby hastily departing for London.

A Fortnight: being ‘particular’

During the 3rd ball at Manydown, after only a fortnight, Tom and Jane were openly showing their mutual attraction being partners for three successive dances: “Mr. H. began with Elizabeth, and afterwards danced with her again; but they do not know how to be particular. I flatter myself, however, that they will profit by the three successive lessons which I have given them.”

Willoughby openly and unabashedly courts Marianne, and together the two flaunt their attachment to one another: “If dancing formed the amusement of the night, they were partners for half the time; and when obliged to separate for a couple of dances, were careful to stand together and scarcely spoke a word to any body else.”

Boundaries of propriety

Concerned that her sister is showing maybe too openly her feelings, Cassandra scolded Jane in a letter written before the 3rd ball at Manydown: “You scold me so much in the nice long letter which I have this moment received from you, that I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together <…> But as to our having ever met, except at the three last balls, I cannot say much; for he is so excessively laughed at about me at Ashe, that he is ashamed of coming to Steventon, and ran away when we called on Mrs. Lefroy a few days ago.”

The tone of this letter suggests both: defiance at being chastised and confidence in the strength of their mutual attraction. Mere convention would not limit the right conferred on her by love to act however she chose, just as it would not for Marianne.

Elinor also wished their attachment was less openly shown “and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserved; Willoughby thought the same; and their behaviour at all times, was an illustration of their opinions… Such conduct made them of course most exceedingly laughed at;”

Marriage expectations

Jane herself was expecting Tom Lefroy to make her an offer, as she communicated her feelings to Cassandra in the second letter (January 14-16, 1796): “Our party to Ashe to-morrow night will consist of Edward Cooper, James (for a ball is nothing without him), Buller, who is now staying with us, and I. I look forward with great impatience to it, as I rather expect to receive an offer from my friend in the course of the evening.”

I know there are other opinions about this offer being merely an invitation at dance and not a marriage proposal, but I am inclined (by my sense, not just sensibility) to believe that Jane, although very fond of dancing, would not look forward and communicate it to her sister with such “great impatience” if she only expected a country dance for their last night together.

Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor also feel that Willoughby will propose to Marianne at any moment. Their hopes are dashed, however, after they find Marianne in tears and Willoughby departing for London.

Farewell: His departure to London

Soon after the last ball, possible right the next day, Tom Lefroy departed Ashe to return to London. One of Jane’s nieces, Caroline Austen, believed that Mrs Lefroy took it upon herself to separate Tom and Jane: “Mrs. Lefroy sent the gentleman off at the end of a very few weeks, that no more mischief might be done.”

If they were indeed separated by Mrs Lefroy or some other Tom’s relatives (I rather suspect his great-uncle, Benjamin Langlois, who perhaps had other views for him) concerned with their love affair, we may never know, but Willoughby’s departure to London (same as Mr Bingley’s in P&P) is once again an interesting coincidence.

On the very day when the Dashwoods were expecting Marianne to receive “an offer” from Willoughby, he is suddenly announces that must depart for London on business, leaving Marianne lovesick and miserable. “Mrs. Smith has this morning exercised the privilege of riches upon a poor dependent cousin, by sending me on business to London. I have just received my dispatches, and taken my farewell of Allenham; [Ashe?] and by way of exhilaration I am now come to take my farewell of you.”

“A boyish love”

Jane’s sister was expected home few days after Tom’s departure. Cassandra was staying with her fiancĂ©'s family in Berkshire that month and so she most likely received an account of what had happened when she return at Steventon. Was there a secret engagement? Did Jane feel like Marianne “to be as solemnly engaged to him, as if the strictest legal covenant had bound us to each other”?

“This is what I believe to have happened” said Mrs Dashwood after Willoughby’s hastily departure, and I will second her with some extracts from the book:

“I am persuaded that Mrs. Smith suspects his regard for Marianne, disapproves of it, (perhaps because she has other views for him,) and on that account is eager to get him away;— and that the business which she sends him off to transact is invented as an excuse to dismiss him. This is what I believe to have happened.”

“I want no proof of their affection,” said Elinor; “but of their engagement I do.”

“I am perfectly satisfied of both.”

“Yet not a syllable has been said to you on the subject, by either of them.”

“I have not wanted syllables where actions have spoken so plainly. Has not his behaviour to Marianne and to all of us, for at least the last fortnight, declared that he loved and considered her as his future wife, and that he felt for us the attachment of the nearest relation?”

“Before the house-maid had lit their fire the next day, or the sun gained any power over a cold, gloomy morning in January [based on Ellen Moody’s calendar: Wednesday 17 January 1798 ], Marianne, only half dressed, was kneeling against one of the window-seats for the sake of all the little light she could command from it, and writing as fast as a continual flow of tears would permit her.”

“Engagement!” cried Marianne, “there has been no engagement.”

“No engagement!”

“No, he is not so unworthy as you believe him. He has broken no faith with me.”

“But he told you that he loved you.”—

“Yes—no—never absolutely. It was every day implied, but never professedly declared. Sometimes I thought it had been—but it never was.”

“I felt myself,” she added, “to be as solemnly engaged to him, as if the strictest legal covenant had bound us to each other.”

“I can believe it,” said Elinor; “but unfortunately he did not feel the same.”

“He did feel the same, Elinor—for weeks and weeks he felt it. I know he did. Whatever may have changed him now, (and nothing but the blackest art employed against me can have done it), I was once as dear to him as my own soul could wish.

We will never know for sure what happened between Jane and Tom that winter or in the years that followed, as there are no surviving letters to shed a light, but I think Jane left us some ‘bread crumbs” in all her wonderful books and as Jane’s niece Anna Austen Lefroy said in one of her letters: “The one thing certain is, that to the last year of his [Tom Lefroy] life she [Jane Austen] was remembered as the object of his youthful admiration”

Here’s a link to one of my favourite Becoming Jane fan-videos, which I think will be a nice gift-wrapping for my analysis:

Once Upon a December - A Becoming Jane Music Video

Pic 1: Jane Austen from: Images
Pic 2: Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen from: Guardian
Pic 3: Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy from: Collider
Pic 4: Sense & Sensibility from: lilycup
Pic 5: Elinor and Marianne from: Jim And Ellen

Pic 6: Sense & Sensibility from: lilycup

Pic 7: James McAvoy and Anne Hathaway from: smh
Pic 8: Sense & Sensibility from: lilycup
Pic 9: Kate Winslet as Marianne from: Photobucket

Pic 10: Sense & Sensibility from: lilycup

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Jane Austen Quote of the Week - Week 33

I should title this post: "Why I love Emma Woodhouse" and of course, by extension, Jane Austen. I love Emma, and this quote really sums it all up. It's taken from Chapter 54, when Emma and Knightley are arguing over Harriet Smith's rejection of Robert Martin. Knightely says to Emma, "What do you deserve?" and she replies:

"Oh! I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other..."

Isn't she marvellous? I know this is short - but that's all I really want to say! Jane always puts a smile on my face. Now I think I'll go back to reading Emma ... and I've almost decided that it should be my first book for the New Year (I always make a big deal of that, but I rarely remember year-to-year which book opened the year - silly really).

Have a great week, and may Jane brighten it for you!

Pic: Kate Beckinsale as Emma from: Strangegirl

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Jane's Birthday Letter from Linda

I am delighted to post on Linda's behalf her beautiful birthday letter to Jane Austen. Thank you Linda! And a happy early birthday to Jane, in the buildup to our celebration of her life.

December 16, 2008

Dear Miss Austen,

To commemorate your 233rd Birthday, it would be fitting to take a trip down Memory Lane. Here are a few highlights of the discoveries and events during those amazing years that will astound you beyond your wildest dreams.

First, on the Home Front, here are some similarities from your time to mine. I can still remember from my childhood in the 1940s seeing my Mother washing our clothes outside in a wash tub using a scrub board. The clothes were then hung out to dry using clothespins on a clothes line. We also had a wood stove, and I had the chore of bringing wood into the house from the wood pile.

It was in the 1950s that ‘modern’ life took hold and we came out of the dark ages, as it were. At that time we got an electric washing machine, clothes dryer and stove which Hil would have really enjoyed! We also did some starching and ironing, but with the introduction of permanent press materials we no longer have much ironing to do. Before we got an electric refrigerator, I remember we had a real ice box, though you probably did not have one of those. I am sure, without a doubt, you wish to ask for a definition of ‘electricity’ which is beyond my limited knowledge to describe for you. My ancestors, the most notable of whom was a doctor, came from England around 1800, and by living in an isolated, rural part of the southern United States would explain why our life was much the same as yours for well over a hundred years. The people and language were very similar. That would account for me feeling so at home and like a kindred spirit while reading your books.

In the field of personal communications, we progressed from our mail being delivered to the West by the pony express, books and newspapers, to include the telephone, telegraph, radios, cell phones, the internet and email. We can now communicate instantly with our friends, literally, around the globe. Who would have believed it?

Our little corner of the world has kept up with the rest of the world in the area of transportation. We shed the horse drawn carriages for automobiles, trains, and airplanes. Every time I see an airplane in the sky, I think of you and what your reaction might be to see such a sight flying through the air. The most important event was the trip into space when men actually walked on the moon, if you can believe that! It sounds unreal even to me, and I was there watching it happen on television at the time.

For entertainment, we still have stage plays and have added moving pictures and television as well as a myriad of electronic games. If only you could see what they have done with your novels, you would be truly amazed.

Ladies fashions have changed, but I won’t say for the better, completely. I personally prefer the more Ladylike styles of your time than ours. You would be quite shocked, I am sure, were you to step into our era.

It would be fascinating to see your expression if you only knew how much money you have generated through these 200 years, especially if you had the benefit of collecting a commission from the sale of your books, movie adaptations, collectibles, etc. How rich you would be!

The condition and status of women has continued to improve also. We have more freedom, independence and the ability to work at a profession if we so wish. In some areas though, you would probably think there is a bit too much freedom, and I think you may be correct.

There is one area that has not changed at all, I am sorry to say, and that is in politics as can be noted in the following quotes which reflect our own troubled economic times.

Cicero said in 55 B.C.:

“The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign hands should be curtailed, lest Rome fall."

And in your own time Catharine Macaulay had this to say:

“…The pernicious policy… of borrowing money of the public, and settling certain taxes to pay the interest of the borrowed sum, had introduced a new kind of traffic… which was totally unknown to happier times. When a nation is deeply in debt, public credit is ever precarious; and the rise and fall of stocks furnish an opportunity for needy adventurers to prey on the hopes and the fears of individuals, whilst the growing necessities of the state give rise to a variety of inventions for raising the sums adequate to the exigencies of the occasion. This worst kind of gaming made a rapid progress… and at length the spirit of adventure, and the eager desire of becoming suddenly rich by the successful attempts of a few of the favored sons of fortune, infected all ranks and all conditions of men through the whole society…

…It was now generally asserted, that every man had his price: the few instances which the times exhibited of self-denial, on the principles of honor and patriotism, were regarded as the effects of an enthusiastic lunacy; the electors paid no regard to their privileges, but as it enabled them to make a lucrative gain of their votes; the elected made the best market of their purchased seats; and opposition was now carried on without other motive than the bringing obscure men into notice, and enhancing the price of corruption: and yet… if ever the people of this country had reason to be in a more particular manner watchful of their political security and their national welfare, it was undoubtedly at this period…”

The History of England from the Revolution to the Present Time (1778); Letter V by Catharine Macaulay.

Lastly, I must say that the highlight of my life was in 2003 when I had the good fortune to attend the Chawton Conference and opening ceremonies for the Chawton House Library in your brother Edward’s home. It was such a memorable moment to visit the Cottage in Chawton and stand in your very room and look out of your own window. What a thrill for this American who had traveled across an ocean for the first time in her life to get there. I wrote an article about my trip which can be found HERE and it will give you some idea of the events of that lovely, unforgettable visit.

It would do your heart good to know how much you are loved and admired as an authoress. Your novels are indeed timeless, and are favorably compared to the Great Shakespeare. Your fame has spread around the world, and your novels have been translated into other languages. You have given us a treasure! Please accept our heartfelt Thank you on your Special Day!

Yours very affectionately,

Pic: Private collection (C) Linda Broemel, the "Garden at Chawton Cottage where Jane walked."