Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy 236th Birthday to Jane!


"Jane lies in Winchester—blessed be her shade!
Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made!"
-- by Rudyard Kipling from The Janeites

"We are reading Clarentine, & are surprised to find how foolish it is. I remember liking it much less that at the 1st & it does not bear a 3d at all. It is full of unnatural conduct & forced difficulties, without striking merit of any kind."
Jane's letter to Cassandra, February 8 and 9, 1807

But Jane's novels were full of natural conduct and unforced difficulties, with merit of every kind, and we have enjoyed them now for 200 years.

So let us all drink a cup of tea today in her honor, and raise our teacups in a toast to "Jane!" And praise the Lord for making her!

Happy birthday Jane!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Christmas Poem from 1795


A Poem of Christmas Day 1795
By Robert Southey

How many hearts are happy at this hour
In England! Brightly o'er the cheerful hall
Flares the heaped hearth, and friends and kindred meet,
And the glad mother round her festive board
Beholds her children, separated long.

Amid the world's ways, assembled now,
A sight at which affection lightens up
With smiles, the eye that age has long bedimm'd.

I do remember when I was a child
How my young heart, a stranger then to care,
With transport leap'd upon this holyday,
A o'er the house, all gay with evergreens,
From friend to friend with joyful speed I ran,
Bidding a merry Christmas to them all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Wit of Elinor Dashwood


Reading through Sense and Sensibility I am always caught off-guard by Elinor's hilarious comments. She is generally considered to be made up entirely of sense, and for good reason, but we often forget her sharp and perceptive humor. (Humor not unlike her creator, Jane.) 

To assist in spreading the appreciation of her wit I would like to post one particularly humorous exchange with her youngest sister Margaret:

"'Oh! Elinor,' she cried, 'I have such a secret to tell you about Marianne. I am sure she will be married to Mr Willoughby very soon.'
                'You have said so,' replied Elinor, 'almost every day since they first met on High-church Down; and they had not known each other a week, I believe, before you were certain that Marianne wore his picture round her neck; but it turned out to be only the miniature of our great uncle.'
'But indeed this is quite another thing. I am sure they will be married very soon for he has got a lock of her hair.'
 'Take care, Margaret. It may be only the hair of some great uncle of his.'"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jane Austen Book Club Week 10 | Northanger Abbey


Northanger Abbey & Gothic Literature

"I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time."

"Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?"

Isabella Thorpe and Catherine Morland in...

It's been quite a long time since I've posted about our meetings at the Sacramento library, and I almost gave up on finishing, but I've decided to carry on. This post is the lecture given by Dr. Jason Gieger on Gothic literature!

So what is it that makes Gothic novels horrid?

To understand this Gothic genre it greatly helps to define terms:
  • Being gothic is only remotely related to the barbaric tribe known as the Goths, or to gothic architecture.
  • Fiction before 1700: Romances with exotic settings, noble aristocratic heroes, fantastic action and third person narratives.
  • Fiction during 1700s: Realism with local settings, mid- to lower-class heroes, everyday action and first person narratives. (Samuel Richardson and Daniel DeFoe are examples.)
  • The Picturesque: Beauty with a touch of wildness
  • The Sublime: Feeling (pain and torture imagined from a distance), greatness of dimension, infinity as contrasted with our smallness and fading away.
"The Sublime" largely defines Gothic literature, which was written in the latter half of the 1700s. Gothic authors use the sublime to create a certain feeling in their readers, a feeling of smallness in an infinity, along with imagining fear and torture from a distance.

You can see how Ann Radcliffe creates this feeling, gives us a sense of the sublime, in Udolpho as she paints a picturesque scene :
"To the south, the view was bounded by the majestic Pyrenees,
whose summits, veiled in clouds, or exhibiting awful forms, seen, and
lost again, as the partial vapours rolled along, were sometimes barren,
and gleamed through the blue tinge of air, and sometimes frowned
with forests of gloomy pine, that swept downward to their base. These
tremendous precipices were contrasted by the soft green of the pastures
and woods that hung upon their skirts; among whose flocks, and herds,
and simple cottages, the eye, after having scaled the cliffs above,
delighted to repose." 

Some great illustrations of what "the sublime" looks like can be seen in some paintings done in the 1600s and at the turn of the 19th century. Dr Gieger showed us a number of them in his slides, and I must say they certainly made me feel my smallness!

Salvator Rosa: Grotto with Cascades, 1639-40
Salvator Rosa: Evening Landscape, 1640-43
Claude Lorrain: Pastoral Landscape, 1638
Casper David Friedrich: Abbey in the Oakwood, 1808-10
Do these paintings make you feel your smallness in an infinity? Or at least the smallness of the people in the paintings? The last one here by Casper Friedrich is an especially vivid example! I can see Catherine Morland having this in her head - maybe as she's reading The Mysteries of Udolpho.

The paintings also illustrate the rules of "the picturesque," defined as "beauty with a touch of wildness."

Seeing the "sublime" and the "picturesque" in the art above can shed some light on why in Northanger Abbey, after Henry explains art to Catherine, telling her of
"fore-grounds, distances, and second distances -- side-screens and perspectives -- lights and shades;" 
 she was able to understand the concepts of picturesque art and,

"when they gained the top of Beechen Cliff, she voluntarily rejected the whole city of Bath as unworthy to make part of a landscape." 
 You see, wildness in the landscapes of the paintings above, and in any picturesque landscape, would not include orderly patterns and straight lines, and the city of Bath most certainly did include orderliness and lines. Bath was quite un-picturesque!

Milsom Street, Bath, 1806

An important influence on the sublime and picturesque movements is Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Dr. Gieger shared part of this quote from Burke's writing:

[On buildings:] "I think then, that all edifices calculated to produce an idea of the sublime, ought rather to be dark and gloomy, and this for two reasons; the first is, that darkness itself on other occasions is known by experience to have a greater effect on the passions than light. The second is, that to make an object very striking, we should make it as different as possible from the objects with which we have been immediately conversant; when therefore you enter a building, you cannot pass into a greater light than you had in the open air; to go into one some few degrees less luminous, can make only a trifling change; but to make the transition thoroughly striking, you ought to pass from the greatest light, to as much darkness as is consistent with the uses of architecture." [Emphasis is the quote Dr. Gieger shared.]
 The sublime is aimed at the passions, it affects the feelings. This use of the sublime in novels shows the shift in literature that was happening in Jane Austen's younger days. Before she was born the literature was very realistic with everyday heroes, and took place in England. But in Gothic literature - which loved to use "the sublime" - stories took place in France, Italy, and even the Orient! Books went from having titles like Clarissa and Tom Jones to having exotic titles like The Castle of Otranto, Vathek, and A Sicillian Romance. These titles create much more of a stir in our passions than a title like Pamela, don't you think?

Authors who are famous for their use of the "sublime" are:
  • Ann Radcliffe (chronologically: A Sicilian Romance, The Romance of the Forest and The Italian)
  • Matthew Gregory Lewis (The Monk)*
  • Willam Beckford (Valthek - it included genies!)
  • Horace Walpole (who wrote the first novel defined as "Gothic," The Castle of Otranto in 1764.)
*An interesting note: Mrs. Radcliffe wrote The Italian as response to The Monk, to correct Matthew Lewis's overdoing Ambrosio the monk as a character who was too over-run by his passions.

The plot of The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole is one of the most hilarious I've ever heard of. I won't give it away, but it involves a giant helmet...

"Shocked with these lamentable sounds, and dreading he knew not what, he advanced hastily, - but what a sight for a father’s eyes! - he beheld his child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an enormous helmet, an hundred times more large than any casque ever made for human being, and shaded with a proportionable quantity of black feathers."
 It's no surprise, then, that he lived at Strawberry Hill, a Gothic fantasy house:

From the Lewis Walpole collection
You can see more pictures and find more information on the house here:

William Beckford lived in Fonthill Abbey...

A view of the north and west fronts of Fonthill Abbey from John Rutter's Delineations of Fonthill and its Abbey (1823). [From Wikipedia]

What is quite revealing about Mr. Beckford is that he was heavily involved in the Abbey's design. So, it's not surprising that someone who could dream this up wrote Gothic novels!

The Gothic genre reflected a sort of shift in English society in more than just literature: also in the area of the situation of women. The women authors seemed to be making a point in often writing of women who were trying to escape from something. (In contrast men authors wrote of men exploring.) This implies, in Dr. Gieger's presentation, that it was probably a common thing for women to at least feel like they were confined in many ways in their society, by men and by circumstances, specifically. This wasn't an area that had been questioned in popular literature in England before (as far as I know).

"But, though it was certain, that she had herself no longer a home in France, and few, very few friends there, she determined to return, if possible, that she might be released from the power of Montoni, whose particularly oppressive conduct towards herself, and general character as to others, were justly terrible to her imagination." From The Mysteries of Udolpho

While we're studying Gothic literature it can be easy to forget that Jane Austen wrote Northanger Abbey as a parody of the Gothic novel. That is what I will look at in the next NA post, using the discussion we had at the library meeting.

Until then...
"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's here!: George Knightley, Esquire Book Two


The eagerly anticipated second book in this Mr. Knightley set is here at last for us to enjoy.

Unlike Emma Woodhouse - who could never keep up a steady course of reading - once I have this book in my hands, it will be difficult for me to keep a steady course in anything else! Although I have a feeling that Emma would have read this one quite as steadily as I will...

Now available for your enjoyment in our Thither shop:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

George Knightley, Esquire Book Two: It's almost here!!


Part two of Emma from Mr. Knightley's perspective will be for sale on August 25th! And Thither is going to carry it.

Take a look at the cover here: Crownhill Writers Blog

Part One

If you are an admirer of Mr. Knightley and have not read this book, you must read it. No question. I enjoyed every word of it! I have a very, very high standard for any portrayal of my favorite hero, and Barbara Cornthwaite's Mr. Knightley does not fall short of it.

The story of Emma from his point of view can have somewhat of a potential to be boring. It could just be written as Mr. Knightley walking from Donwell to Hartfield, dining here, having this conversation there; it could get very monotonous. But that is far from the case here! Ms. Cornthwaite has captured the cheerful, clear-sighted squire of Donwell, who never misses a person's absurdities (especially Emma's). His banter with Emma and his brother, John, had me laughing out loud. I gained a deeper understanding of why he loves Emma, as well; which, as readers of Emma know, can be rather hard to see. She captures his humane side, too, as he takes care of his tenants, and is concerned about Emma and tries to guide her and protect her from her own foolishness or Mr. Elton's social-climbing or Frank Churchill's trifling gallantry. 

After every well-known scene I found myself eagerly anticipating the next because what I had just read was so well-written and had completely delighted me. When I had finished it, I was more enamored of Mr. Knightley than ever.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Next JASNA Greater Sacramento Meeting


Image courtesy of JASNA GS

Another JASNA GS meeting is around the corner:
Date: July 23
Time: 10:00 - 12:00
Location: Rancho Cordova Library meeting room (located on the right of the entryway)
This meeting will be the most fun one yet! We will be thinking of activities, for both our meetings and for our JASNA group. So, for all of you creative minds out there, now is the time to join in!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

JASNA Greater Sacramento: Meeting

(As we affectionately call ourselves.)

Image Courtesy of JASNA GS

Formed in March of this year this fledgling branch of the Jane Austen Society of America has some delightful plans for the coming months and years. Sacramento Jane Austen fans will have opportunities to enjoy a Birthday Tea in December, readers' theaters and visiting speakers, and hopefully picnics, book clubs, more teas and a plethora of other things! I am privileged be a part of the founding committee, which is an experienced and quite diverse group of both women and a men. Our group's regional coordinator was the principal planner for the "How Austentatious" series at the Sacramento Library that I've posted about in the past.

Apart from introducing this group, I'm announcing our next meeting: this Saturday, June 25 at the Rancho Cordova Library, 10:00 in the morning (until 12:00). At this stage in the group's forming anyone is welcome to join us!

I'd like to mention that if anyone has any ideas for events that our regional group could put together or be involved in, please comment on this post! Or tell us on Facebook or Twitter. We'd love some ideas!

View Larger Map
(Directions to the Library) 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

...and Charles Dickens Knew, My Review


At last I'm giving my review of What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist -- the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England. I would highly recommend this book! It's almost like an encyclopedia of background information on 19th century English life. But, unlike a real encyclopedia, it is much less daunting. Which means the way it is written makes it easy to read. 

Some of my questions it answered were:

  • How exactly do you play whist, commerce, vingt-et-un, piquette, casino, etc.?
  • Where did country houses get their names?
  • Why were horses such a status symbol?
  • What exactly did all the servants do?
  • When is Michaelmas?
  • What's the difference between an apothecary and a surgeon?
The book is neatly divided into sections such as: 
  • "The Basics," with subcategories "Currency," "The Calendar," "London," etc.
  • "The Public World," with "The Titled," and "Esq., Gent., K.C.B., etc." and so on
  • "The Country," with "The Midland, Wessex and Yorkshire" and "Shire and Shire Alike: Local Government in Britain," etc.
It includes a handy glossary as well. Very helpful when you'd like to find a specific term.

Besides Mr. Dickens and Miss Austen Mr. Pool looks at works primarily by Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy and Charlotte and Emily Brontë. He covers the upper class, lower class and working class, transportation, titles, government (local and national), vocabulary, food, social life, crime, money, marriage, fashion -- from an "abigail" to a "yew," he'll inform you on all the important points of life in the nineteenth century.

I'd recommend it as a very interesting and helpful investment for any reader of 19th century novels!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Collector's Library Sense and Sensibility: A Review

The Collector's Library Sense and Sensibility

To celebrate the opening of our shop and information site, which carries this edition, this is a review of my favorite edition of Sense and Sensibility, which itself is celebrating in the form of the bicentennial of it's publication!

This is not a review to critique it's author -- who would dare?! -- only it's aesthetics and extra materials. To begin, I love it's size, which is approximately six by four inches. It is ideal for tucking into my purse or packing for a trip, especially one by airplane. The only downside to it's compactness is it's small print, which may be difficult to read, if that is an issue. It is an elegant little piece, with gold-gilt page edges, a built-in ribbon bookmark and a red cloth hardback cover under it's decorative dust jacket. But the most delightful addition is the artwork by Hugh Thompson scattered throughout it's pages! There are about forty illustrations in the volume.

"Apparently in violent affliction"

And speaking of volumes, this edition is sadly not divided into it's original three volumes. Which may not matter to many readers (I didn't care at first), but it would be a nice addition when studying the book.

The afterward is written by Henry Hitchings, and contains some insightful looks at the text, although I don't agree with them all, particularly his opinion on Marianne and Colonel Brandon's happiness at the close of the novel.

The Collector's Library has printed all of Jane's novels, and I would recommend them all!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Timeless 21st Century Royal Wedding

Adding our congratulations!

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church..."

The Service

This wedding was more than a display of pomp and traditions, it will stand as a tribute to the loving relationship of William and Kate, and the sweetness and honor of marriage. Not only was her dress beautiful, but it was beautiful to see them being joined together as man and wife, and to see marriage celebrated as the sacred and joyful event it is! 
And the two kisses was one of the most romantic things I've ever seen! It's not often we see such sweet romance in real life. It was romantic and proper enough to be classed with the happy endings Jane herself created!

Along with being the HRHs they are...
  • Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
  • Earl and Countess of Strathearn
  • Baron and Baroness of Carrickfergus
Prayers and thoughts are with you Will and Kate!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mr. Tilney on His own Perfections: The Old Spice Parody

(We're still here!)

I have heard much of this event, which occurred during the last JASNA AGM in Portland last October, and am so excited to be able to see it myself at last! This is for all you Mr. Henry Tilney admirers, of which I am certainly one:

"Unlike some gentlemen who refuse to dance, I love to dance." Yes!!