Archive for March, 2012

Anna Austen, later Lefroy (1793-1872)

John Glover ( (1767-1849) ( (one of the two artists who popular engraved prints Austen was familiar with, possibly one like this of local English countryside is intended)

Dear friends and readers,

I’m breaking strict chronology at this point (see letter 70) because I’ve been asked to review The Later Manuscripts, ed. Janet Todd and Linda Bree, a final volume of Austen’s texts in the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen, gen. ed. Janet Todd, and have come to that part of the volume where the editors print five and the postscript to a sixth letter (Letter 103) from Jane Austen to one of her two closest nieces, Anna Austen Lefroy (oldest daughter of Austen’s older brother, James, by his first wife, Anne Matthew [died 1795]). There are altogether sixteen extant letters from Austen to Anna, and of the five “whole” selections Todd and Bree make (where they take the complete text as far as we can guess), one is a letter cut off after an initial single paragraph (Letter 113).

This is, in other words, a series of scraps taken from a remnant of censored letters, on the supposition they give Jane Austen’s “theory of fiction.” They do not because 1) Jane Austen had no consistent worked-out theory of fiction: she talks only of her attitudes towards her heroines (usually some version of qualified fondness), strict literal verisimilitude and the actual literal situations she likes to delve (“3 or 4 Families in a Country Village”); and 2) if you want to argue she did have one, no matter how unconscious, what you need to do is bring all her letters together which bring up or discuss fiction, especially her own; these are many and must include the one to her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh (Letter 142).

This section of their book may best be read as a half-hearted attempt to present Jane Austen’s relationship with her niece who was possibly potentially as gifted as she but never developed these gifts. Letter 76, which I begin with here, is a parody ridiculing a minor novel Austen, her sister, and Anna, had been reading aloud to one another, Rachel Hunter’s Margiana; or, Widdrington Tower (1808, Minerva Head Press). See later correction and blog: the novel in question was Lady Maclairn, or The Victim of Villany.

The others are about the first novel Anna attempted, which she first called Enthusiasm, but changed to Which is the Heroine, and destroyed one night by casting it into the fire on her hearth in the later 1820s. In their notes they include (as LeFaye does not) all the comments of Anna’s third daughter, Fanny Caroline Lefroy about how much the novel meant to her mother, how she tried to finish Sanditon, Anna’s intense depression in the her later 20s and her destruction of her this item she had been so proud of, cherished. Proud because Jane Austen had taken it seriously, liked it. As her daughter, Fanny Caroline Lefroy laments, if her mother had not destroyed what she had written in a moment of self-rejecting despair (and loneliness for her aunt too), Jane Austen’s letters would mean more and we would have a much better understanding of Anna’s talents (perhaps a novel worth reading). The section is followed by the playlet, Sir Charles Grandison, which was probably written by Anna in her girlhood and corrected (polished, improved) by her aunt.

Since their book includes both a modern printing of Sanditon, and a diplomatic transcript of the manuscript, all one needs to do is read the other 9 letters, Mary Gaither Marshall’s edition of Anna’s continuation of Sanditon, which includes Anna’s Reminiscences of her aunt, and Anna’s three extant novellas, Mary Hamilton (1833), The Winter’s Tale (1841) and Springtide (1842), and cobble together from the various Jane Austen biographical books what is known of Anna’s life and documents by and about her (including her sister, Caroline’s truthful account of Anna’s bleak sad wedding to Benjamin Lefroy), and a relevant life and person to Jane Austen’s oeuvre is before you. I am not in a position to reach the three novellas (though I will try what I can do in my local Library Of Congress and Folger Library and through interlibrary loan), but I will here in the next few blogs present the rest.

This first blog is presents and reads first of the letters as printed by LeFaye, the ridiculing “fun” of Rachel Hunter’s historical fiction, apparently a cross between a gothic and sentimental text. I’ll then go on to offer a brief life of Anna, and then the five other texts in Todd and Bree, with an account of the nine further texts in LeFaye’s fourth edition of the letters. These can form a preface to the second half of the remnant of Jane Austen’s letter that is left to us, those which contain what is left of her explicit comments on her novels while preparing them for publication, writing and revising the best known six.


Francis Nicolson (1753-1844) (the other painter whose popular more feeble work is alluded to)

76(C). To Anna Austen. ?Between Thursday 29 and Saturday 31 October 1812

Miss Jane Austen begs her best thanks may be conveyed to Mrs Hunter of Norwich for the Threadpaper which she has been so kind as to send her by Mr Austen, & which will be always very valuable on account of the spirited sketches (made it is supposed by Nicholson or Glover) of the most interesting spots, Tarefield Hall, the Mill, & above all the Tomb of Howard’s wife, of the faithful representation of which Miss Jane Austen is undoubtedly a good judge having spent so many summers at Tarefield Abbei the delighted guest of the worthy Mrs Wilson. [It is impossible for any likeness to be more complete. Miss Jane Austen’s tears have flowed over each sweet sketch in such a way as would do Mrs Hunter’s heart good to see; if Mrs Hunter could understand all Miss Jane Austen’s interest in the subject she would certainly have the kindness to publish at least 4 vols more about the Flint family, & especially would give many fresh particulars on that part of it which Mr, H. has hitherto handled too briefly; viz, the history of Mary Flint’s marriage with Howard.

Miss Jane Austen cannot close this small epitome of the miniature abridgment of her thanks & admiration without expressing her sincere hope that Mrs Hunter is provided at Norwich with a more safe conveyance to London than Alton can now boast, as the Car of Frankenstein which was the pride of that Town was overturned in the last 10 days.

Miss Austen


John Glover ( (1767-1849), Rhiadr Ddu, North Wales (this is more like the paintings Glover is famous for today)

There is a brief but descriptive enough account of either this novel or one very like it in M. H. Dobbs, “Margian: Name of Author Wanted,” Notes and Queries, 7, Series 11 (1913):233-34. A brief account of the major characters, plot-turns and quality — it’s a historical novel which grounds history in Shakespeare, with gothic motifs and a sentimental courtship plot. Dobbs is someone who appears prima facie to think little of women’s novels; he (or she writing from a man’s point of view which she’s imbibed) he opens by assuming this one is by a woman and yet Dobbs grants the novel is a semi-serious attempt to write historical fiction and says there is genuine feeling in it. In her account of this novel in her Reminiscences, Anna says Hunter repeated the same story of the character several times: perhaps this was done from the different characters’ point of view.

Anna also tells Edward that the letter shows their aunt’s tendency to “ridicule:” thus she alludes two landscape artists in ways meant to stigmatize Hunter’s Abbey pictures: they are, Jane implies, verbal recreations of images such as Mrs Hunter might have seen in local books or places she visited. Austen is not only up on what is popular; she here distinguishes between what’s high status, prestigious (say an original oil or watercolor by a famous name you’d have to pay a good deal of money to if you wanted one of his or her pictures) and what’s popular, readily available to anyone who can get to the circulating library. In an earlier letter (55, 30 Jun-1 July 1808) we saw her half-mock William Hodges’s painting of Hasting’s second wife (only half, because it was Hastings, Eliza’s biological father, an important possible dispenser of patronage to the Austen family). Hodges are similar works: very pleasing Anglo-picturesque landscapes.

William Hodges (1744-97), A View of Matavai Bay in the Island of Otaheite (1776)


Fanny Austen Knight, later Knatchbull (1793-1882) writing a letter when young (watercolor by Cassandra Austen)

The letter is undated but after a careful study of the group of letters to Anna, especially those just before and around Anna’s wedding, LeFaye concluded these are the closest dates we have. Anna’s letters are in a parlous state, in versions she herself may have censored, I suggest because it was too painful to her later in life to realize her aunt had sometimes made fun of her or talked of her desires for say a pianoforte just after she married in hostile terms to her cousin, Fanny, very different from the way Austen had talked to her. (See LeFaye, “Jane Austen: Some Letters Redated,” Notes and Queries, 34:4 n.s. (1987):478-81.

It’s significant this is the first letter to Anna that has survived. Anna was someone with brains enough if not quite to understand explicitly the basis of the ridicule, at least someone who would sympathize with the desire to take the fiction sufficiently seriously to write up a parody. She opens with a mild sneer: Rachel Hunter’s book is so much threadpaper. The literal definition is a strip of folded paper serving to hold skeins of thread in its divisions. But the use is continually pejorative once that meaning is extrapolated out from, e.g., “No matter — as an appendage to a seamstress, the thread-paper might be of some consequence to my mother — of none to my father, as a mark in Slawkenbergius. (Tristram Shandy, Sterne). Again: “Sedley said he feared poor Desdemona had lost the thread-paper from which she was to mend her gown, and recommended to the two young ladies to have the charity to go and assist her” (Camilla, Burney). Also metonymic use it’s equivalent is a a woman: someone who uses this sort of thing: “A thread-paper, a doll, a toy – a girl, in short. ” (Bronte, Shirley)

Jane Austen’s most common reaction to most of those novels she mentions in her letters is hostile ridicule: to put the matter plainly. In part all these inferior texts get into print and hers has not, or in this case, gotten into print after ceaseless revision and paying for it. The exceptions are writers with strong prestige (Scott), who write didactically (Edgeworth, Genlis most of the time) or whose fictions resemble hers (but only if they have a name, so Burney is respected even if mocked, but Mary Brunton is not).

Still since the letter is dated dated October 1812, after the publication of Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen has had a real success d’estime — though the transcendent success of her archetypal romance (as it emerged from her cutting), Pride and Prejudice was not to come until after Jan 1813 (date of publication).

Austen specifically mocks the sentimental presentation of the servants in the novel, Mr and Mrs Wilson. I note that she had a hero named Howard who was a relatively poor tutor and we are told managed to escape the pursuit of Lady Osborne (suggesting a kind of Joseph Andrews plot unless a mistake was made in transmission and Jane told Cassandra Miss Osborne was to pursue Mr Howard). The connection of the names, Hunter having used the same one, may suggest why Miss Austen has this special interest in Mr Howard. Proprietary. The interest here is this suggests that Austen had not given up on The Watsons; she still considered the characters in that novel living creations that were hers and she intended to return to.

The reference to the Car of Frankenstein and number of miles between Alton and Norwich is not entirely nonsense — as the family liked to call much that Austen kidded about. In fact in one of Austen’s letters to Anna Austen (as we shall see) reveals an important part of her conscious method was to make sure she stayed within calendar and time and space limitations that exist in real life.

From Dobbs’s account and Austen’s reaction, it’s plain Hunter does not go carefully into such minutiae; Hunter does not care if she actually saw something happen or was in a place: one cannot be after all in a historical novel. Nor does she realize how important such control of time (slowing down) and felt space are in creating subjective time that draws the reader in — and thus instinctively, intuitively important to Austen. Austen herself thinks of this only as probability, a guard to make sure novels are not made fun of; we must turn to Anna Barbauld for a realization of a novel’s creation of a subjective consciousness.

Austen had been regaling her sister and Anna with stories she invented for the Car of Frankenstein. It had been overturned 10 days ago. Now this anticipates Sanditon which begins with an overturned carriage — so perhaps it already existed in some draft form. In Arthur Axelrod’s Jane Austen Caught in the Act of Greatness, a thorough careful diplomatic display of the manuscripts of the cancelled chapters of Persuasion and Sanditon, he notes hat on October 11/12, 1813, Jane wrote Cassandra:

I admire the Sagacity & Taste of Charlotte Williams. Those dark eyes always judge well. — I will compliment her, by naming a heroine after her.

It’s interesting that the name Frankenstein was perhaps already a stereotypoc name for gothic well before Mary Shelley’s book — or is this name prophetic?

Francis Nicolson, Pont Aberlaslyn, Wales (1809) — like Glover Nicolson did some fine painting (we need not adopt Austen’s attitudes here at all)


Catherine Anne Hubback, nee Austen (1818-77), Frank Austen’s 5th daughter by his first wife

The tendency is to think of Austen has having two nieces, and to put all the emphasis and interest on Fanny Austen Knight. It does seem as if for a time Jane Austen much preferred Fanny to Anna; but the letters to Fanny about marriage (often discussed and reprinted) show Jane at a distance looking at Fanny clinically (as we shall see when we get there). Alas, the movie Gweneth Hughes and Anne Pivcevic’s Miss Austen Regrets will solidify this erasure. Anna it was who grew up with the aunts when her father remarried, Anna was there to witness the first writing of Pride and Prejudice, Anna again lived near Austen at Chawton: Unlike Fanny, Anna had the brains, sensitivity, interest in her aunt’s fiction; she and her half-brother and half-sister, Caroline, inherited much from James the father and were responnsible for the important (even if wrong-headed) indispensable first memoir.

Not only that but there were three nieces and one who really did have career: Catherine Anne Hubback. Arguably it was Anna’s jealousy of her younger cousin, Catherine, and desire to forestall any publications by Catherine about their aunt, that led Anna to encourage and help James Edward Austen-Leigh in his biography of their aunt — Anna mentions more than once in irritated resentful terms that Catherine wrote The Younger Sister from a manuscript (it’s actually rather from memory). Catherine Anne Hubback helped support herself and family by writing (Victorian) novels when her husband had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized; she published nine more novels after The Younger Sister (important for what it reveals about Austen’s The Watsons), among them the readable The Wife’s Sister, The Rival Suitors, and Agnes Milbourne, a story dealing with a young girl’s dilemma over the conflicting claims of the Episcopalian and the Presbyterian church and her most popular work of fiction. I hope to write blogs on Catherine Hubback’s Younger Sister as well as Fanny Austen Knight when the appropriate time in the letters provides.

Next up, the second letter to Anna printed in Todd and Bree’s Later Manuscripts.

See Jane Austen’s Letters


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“Vision begins to happen in such a life
as if a woman quietly walked away
from the argument and jargon in a room
and sitting down in the kitchen, began turning in her lap
bits of yarn, calico and velvet scraps,
laying them out absently on the scrubbed boards
in the lamplight, with small rainbow-colored shells . . .
Such a composition has nothing to do with eternity,
the striving for greatness, brilliance —
only with the musing of a mind
one with her body, experienced fingers quietly pushing
dark against bright; silk against roughness,
putting the tenets of a life together
with no mere will to mastery,
only care . . .”

Adrienne Rich when young

Adrienne Rich more recently

Dear friends and readers,

Adrienne Rich died this afternoon (John Nichols’s obituary). She was one of the great poets of our time, a perceptive selfless essayist, consistently humane in all her stances, a feminist, eloquent and pithy. I came to her late, but discovering her, I’ve found solace, inspiriting anger, validation.

Two favorite short poems:

From Contradictions

The problem, unstated till now, is how
to live in a damaged body
in a world where pain is meant to be gagged
uncured          ungrieved over          The problem is
to connect, without hysteria, the pain
of any one’s body with the pain of the body’s world
For it is the body’s world
they are trying to destroy for ever
The best world is the body’s world
filled with creatures          filled with dread
misshapen so          yet the best we have
our raft among the abstract worlds
and how I longed to live on this earth
walking her boundaries          never counting the cost

From an Atlas of the Difficult World

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains’ enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.


Betty LaDuke (b. 1933), Timeless Time, Latin America

I find other women quote her. It’s common for me to have passages from her poems and prose in my file on her (a Net commonplace book) which come from other people’s writing. For example, My Dream of You, a novel by Nuala O’Faolain (whose work I love similarly, maybe even more so her two memoirs):

You sleep in a room with bluegreen curtains
posters          a pile of animals on the bed
A woman and a man who love you
and each other          slip the door ajar
you are almost asleep          they crouch in turn
to stroke your hair          you never wake

This happens every night for years
This never happened . . .

What if I told you your home
is this continent of the homeless
of children sold          taken by force
driven from their mothers’ land
killed by their mothers to save from capture
— this continent of changed names and mixed-up
of languages tabooed
diasporas unrecorded
undocumented refugees
underground railroads          trails of tears
What if I tell you your home
is this planet of war-worn children
women and children standing in line or milling
endlessly calling each others’ names
What if I tell you, you are not different
it’s the family albums that lie
— will any of this comfort you
and how should this comfort you?

Berthe Morisot (1841-95) Seascape

I came across this part of another of Rich’s moving poems in a wonderful biography cum art-criticism, Berthe Morisot by Anne Higonnet:

The women who first knew themselves
miners, are dead, The rainbow flies

like a flying buttress from the walls
of cloud, the silver-and-green vein

awaits the battering of the pick
the dark lode weeps for light.

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,

with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.

This one, on line, from a blog:

I have read again and again in her Poems: Selected and New, 1950-1974, and (a real favorite, for the title too), The Fact of a Doorframe. I like her better than Margaret Atwood because she is less elusive, less diplomatic, less intellectual; I like her better than Marge Piercy because she is less direct, less brash, more reflectively thoughtful.


I love her essays just as much. Cherished volumes are: On Lies, Secresy and Silence; Of Woman Born: Motherhood as an Experience and institution; What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics.

She taught us and will continue to teach us; turn anywhere to where women writers are quoted, of course especially women’s studies, women’s poetry, women’s issues, and you found some utterance of hers (like Simone de Beauvoir, like Andrea Dworkin, like Catherine MacKinnon) a concept, a feeling, an experience that people must begin or argue with. Last night I was reading Jane Gaines and Charlotte Herzog’s Fabrications: Costume and the Female Body, and where, in order to turn to understanding, valuing, finding resistance, meaning, some power, some utopia, in fashion, but Rich:

“In one of the strongest statements against traditional feminine dress and adornment, Adrienne Rich puts haute couture and ‘feminine dress code’ in the same category as purdah, foot-binding, the veil, public sexual harassment and the threat of rape, all of which work in some way to physically confine and prohibit movement.”

Robert Maxwell’s photo of Helen Mirren (actress)

There are many tributes to her today: Here is one from a woman I am proud and happy to call my friend, Farideh Hassanzadeh-Mostafavi: “An Interview.”

Reading Rich I could believe in life, love and peace in spite of death, disloyalty and never ending wars. I learned from Rich to resist in my poetry and in my life … I love her pride and purity as a poet, rejecting the most important awards granted by owners of violence and wealth. I introduced her poems to Iranian readers, first in my anthology of women poets and then in my anthology of American contemporary poets. Let me tell you that Rich’s poetry in translation loses everything but poetry itself, simply because it is the language of spirit, not only the language of heart or head. And the language of spirit is common between trees, rivers, and the essence of poetry.

A fine obituary by Gloria Orenstein who taught with her: Legacy; from Susan Rich (An Alchemist’s Kitchen), The Nation (with 5 poems); Reuters Press and the Los Angeles Times:

“Later in the life, in 1997, she created a stir by refusing the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor awarded by the U.S. government to artists and artistic patrons, on political grounds.

“I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House,” she wrote, “because the very meaning of art as I understand it is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration.”

The Progressive; NPR: Solfeggietto read aloud; The Guardian; The New York Times obituary.

Among the things I admired today was how we were told how and why she died: rheumatoid arthritis. Complications. It’s made such a taboo so often, but not her.

If you knew nothing about her life, work or writing, here are two general sites: wikipedia, Poetry Foundation


Among her famous often-cited and anthologized poems, Her “Diving into the Wreck” is the equivalent of T. S. Eliot’s Waterland. it sets my spirits soaring:

“Diving into the Wreck”

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is used for,
who who have used it.
it’s a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reels
and besides
you breathe differently down here,

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

Nell Blaine (1922-96), Rooftops during Rain


For me one particular stanza explains how to read literature — or how I read and what I value it most for: the stanza which begins: “the thing I came for:/the wreck and not the story of the wreck …” For me great literature, great art is where we see “the drowned face” and “the ribs of the disaster” so that we may understand our “book of myths” and why we must carry “a knife, a camera.” She has good lines about sex and gender too: the mermaid has dark hair streaming back while the merman is in an armored body. It is impossible to say which is courage and which cowardice.

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), The House Opposite — a commentary on fairy tales, myths, women in literature

Just entrancing:

“Transcendental Etudes”

This August evening I’ve been driving
over backroads fringed with queen anne’s lace
my car startling young deer in meadows — one
gave a hoarse intake of her breath and all
four fawns sprang after her
into the dark maples.
Three months from today they’ll be fair game
for the hit-and-run hunters, glorying
in a weekend’s destructive power,
triggers fingered by drunken gunmen, sometimes
so inept as to leave the shattered animal
stunned in her blood. But then evening deep in summer
the deer are still alive and free,
nibbling apples from early-laden boughts
so weighed, so englobed
with already yellowing fruit
they seem eternal, Hesperidean
in the clear-tuned, cricket-throbbing air.

Later I stood in the dooryard
my nerves singing the immense
fragility of all this sweetness,
this green world already sentimentalized, photographed,
advertised to death. Yet, it persists
stubbornly beyond the fake Vermont
of antique barnboards glazed into discotheques,
artificial snow, the sick Vermont of children
conceived in apathy grown to winters
of rotgut violence,
poverty gnashing its teeth like a blind cat at their lives.
Still, it persists. Turning off into a dirt road
from the raw cuts buldozed throgh a quiet village
for the tourist run to Canada,
I’ve sat on a stone fence above a great-soft, sloping field
of musing helfers, a farmstead
slanting its planes calmly in the calm light,
a dead elm raising bleached arms
above a green so dense with life,
minute, momentary life — slugs, moles, pheasants, gnats,
spiders, moths, hummingbirds, groundhogs, butterflies —
a lifetime is too narrow
to understand it all, beginningwith the huge
rockshelves that underlie all life.

No one ever told us we had to study our lives,
make of our lives a study, as if learning natural history
music, that we should begin
with the simple exercises first
and slowly go on trying
the hard ones, practicing till strength
and accuracy became one with the daring
to leap into transcendence, take the chance
of breaking down the wild arpeggio
or faulting the full sentence of the fugue.—
And in fact we can’t live like that: we take on
everything at once before we’ve even begun
to read or mark time, we’re forced to begin
in the midst of the hard movement,
the one already sounding as we are born.

At most we’re allowed a few months
of simply listengin to the simple
line of a woman’s voice singing a child
against her heart. Everything else is too soon,
too sudden, the wrenching-apart, that woman’s heartbeat
heard ever after from a distance
the loss of that ground-note echoing
whenever we are happy, or in despair.

Everything else seems beyond us,
we aren’t ready for it, nothing that was said
is true for us, caugh naked int he argument,
the coutnerpoint, trying to sightread
what our fingers can’t keep up with, learn by heart
what we can’t even read. And yet
it _is_ this we were born to. We aren’t vituosi
or chld prdigies, ther are no prodigies
in this realm, only a half-blind, stubborn
cleaving to the timbre, the tones of what we are
— even when all the texts describe it differently.

And we’re not performers, like Liszt, competing
against the world for speed and brilliance
(the 79-year-old pianist said, when I asked her
_What makes a virtuoso? — Competitiveness.)_
The longer I live the more I mistrust
theatricality, the false glamour cast
by performance, the more I know its poverty beside
the truths we are salvaging from
the splitting-open of our lives
The woman who sits watching, listening,
eyes moving in the darkness
is reheasing in her body, hearing-out in her blood
a score touched off in her perhaps
by some words, a few chods, from the stage,
a tale only she can tell.

But there come times — perhaps this is one of them —
when we have to taek ourselves more seriously or die;
we when have to pull back from the incantations,
rhythms we’ve moved to thoughtlessly,
and disenthrall ourselves, bestow
ourselves to silence, or a severer listening, cleansed
of oratory, formulas, choruses, laments, static
crowing the wires. We cut the wires,
find ourselves in free-fall, as if
our true home were the undimensional
solitudes, the rift
in the Great Nebula.
No one who survives to speka
new language, has avoided this:
the cutting-away of an old force that held her
rooted to an old ground
the pitch of utter loneliness
where she herself and all creation
seem equally dispersed, weightless, her being a cry
to which no echo comes or can ever come.

But in fact we were always like this,
rootless, dismembered: knowing it makes the difference.
Birth stripped our birthright from us,
tore us from a woman, from women, from ourselves
so early on
and the whole chorus throbbing at our ears
like midges, told us nothing, nothing
of origins, nothing we needed
to know, nothing that could re-member us.

Only: that it is unnatural,
the homesickness for a woman, for ourselves,
for that acute joy at the shadow her head and arms
cast on a wall, her heafy or slender
thigs on which we lay, flesh against flesh,
eyes steady on the face of love; smell of her milk, her swet,
terror of her disappearance, all fused in this hunger
for the element they have called most dangerous,to be
lifted breathtaken on her breast, to rock within her
— even if beaten back, stranded again, to apprehend
in a sudden brine-clear though
trembling like the tiny, orbed, endangered
egg-sac of a new world:
_This is what she was to me, and this
is how I can love myself —
as only a woman can love me.

Homesick for myself, for her_ — as, father the heatwave
breaks, the clear tones of the world
manifest: cloud, bough, wall, insect, the very soul of light,
_homesick_ as the fluted vault of desire
articulates itself: _I am the lover and the loved,
homne and wanderer, she who splits
firewood and she who knocks, a strange
in the storm_, two women, eye to eye
measuring each other’s spirits each others’
limitless desire,
          a whole new poetry beginning here.

Vision begins to happen in such a life
as if a woman quietly walked away
from the argument and jargon in a room
and sitting down in the kitchen, began turning in her lap
bits of yarn, calico and velvet scraps,
laying them out absently on the scrubbed boards
in the lamplight, with small rainbow- colored shells
sent in cotton-wool from somewhere far away
and skeins of milkweed from the nearest meadow —
original domestic silk, the finest findings —
and the darkblue petal of the petunia,
and the dry darkbrown face of seaweed;
not forgotten either, the shed silver
whisker of the cat,
the spiral of paper-wasp-nest curling
beside the finch’s yellow feather.
Such a composition has nothing to do with eternity,
the striving for greatness, brilliance—
only with the musing of a mind
one with her body, experienced fingers quietly pushing
dark against bright; silk against roughness,
putting the tenets of a life together
with no mere will to mastery,
only care for the many-lived, unending
forms in which she finds herself,
becoming now the sherd of broken glass
slicing light in a corner, dangerous
to flesh, now the plentiful, soft leaf
that wrapped round the throbbing finger, soothes the wound;
and now the stone foundation, rockshelf further
forming underneath everything that grows.

Remedios Varo (1908 – 1963), Girls on Bicycles (?): it puts me in mind of the Madeleine books

And these are only a few of my favorite poems. It has to be admitted Rich is not often playful. But then I’m not often playful. She wrote only of Austen that I can find once: in “When we dead awaken: Writing a Re-vision”: in A Room of One’s Own, Woolf was trying to sound “as cool as Jane Austen, as Olympian as Shakespeare, because that is the way men of the culture thought a writer should sound.” She is right about that: Austen did compromise and I will be writing about one aspect of this tomorrow: her letters to her niece, Anna Austen Lefroy.

I had not included Rich in my foremother poet blogs and postings before because I felt inadequate to the task, that I did not know enough. I am aware I never saw, heard or spoke to her while it seems other people I know have. Today I got over that and perhaps next week will attempt another foremother blog for Amy Clampitt whom I also feel I don’t know quite enough about.

I’ll come back later and add some good essays or books about Rich and her writing if I can find some I feel sure are good. An addendum for now: it’s useless to write a foremother poet blog for Adrienne Rich, it almost makes nonsense of what she stood for unless we tell the content: a free-for-all against blacks, women, the poor. US action outside the borders of the US.


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Anna Chancellor as Miss Bingley (the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice by Davies)

Dear friends and readers,

Score another success for our JASNA-DC Janeite-Austenite group. Last spring we enjoyed a good luncheon together at the Holiday Inn Arlington, heard a stimulating talk by Patricia Meyer Spack on and (many of us) bought a beautiful, instructive and picture-laden edition of Pride and Prejudice, and had good company and talk; this year again the last two, this time the lecturer Deborah Kaplan who provided an insightful talk on the images of Austen, especially the Paula Byrne one. She meant not only to to try persuade the more sceptical among us to entertain the idea this new image could be (a poor) one of Austen but talk about why we want an image, what we come to any image armed with (so to speak) in the first place and corollary connected topics.

I’ve outlined the talk and our lively discussion afterward. See what you think.


Spring. Our JASNA-DC luncheo again at the Holiday Inn Arlington, this time featuring Deborah Kaplan, an 18th century and Jane Austen scholar (professor at George Mason University where I teach too). Her talk on authenticated and “pretender” images of Jane Austen brought us all back to the hot/sore topic of this past December: Paula Byrne’s claim that a 1814-1817 miniature painted of a spinster author at the back of whom the name Jane Austen can be seen is indeed Jane Austen.

Izzy was with me and appeared to enjoy the talk as much as I did and has written a succinct assessment of Professor Kaplan’s argument and discussion afterward about who this aspiring Regency authoress was: “Much ado about a picture.” I have blogged about the controversy before; that is, when first it erupted and when I saw the BBC program on YouTube. I wrote then that I thought the portrait was not of Jane Austen. Deborah has persuaded me to think again; her talk’s smaller goal was to demonstrate to us all the plausibility of the attribution. A larger issue was also canvassed: how our individual reactions to the image derive from our personal conjured-up sense of what Austen looked like, what she was like a person within, an identity we invent from reading her novels, letters and imagining her in her world.

Deborah began by handing out a sheaf of xeroxes of images of Austen: the Byrne portrait, Cassandra’s two portraits; the prettied up images commissioned by James Edward Austen-Leigh and the Rice portrait. She asked us to look at Byrne’s find and write next to that “yes [it’s Austen] or “no” [it’s not] and jot down a few reasons why we feel this way. I wrote “no,” she’s “very expensively dressed and likes stage-y self-projection;” “she’s a spinster and glad to be so;” and “she wants us to see her as an author.”

Deborah then began her talk. She first described and went over the history of the (above) previous images which have claimed authenticity. In 1804 Cassandra drew Jane in a bonnet from the back, gazing at a landscape; and in 1810 drew Jane sitting on a chair, facing really “scowling” at Cassandra, with her arms tightly-crossed, dark shadows under the eyes. In 1869 James Edward Austen-Leigh, her nephew (son of her eldest brother, James) commissioned James Andrew to produce a prettified cheerful version of the 1810 portrait for his memoir. Andrews made adjustments to her face, posture, arms, clothing. This was engraved and again “adjusted by Lizars for the actual printing. The dearth of images was lamented for decades.

Then two more contenders appeared. The first is known as the Rice portrait, a portrait of an adolescent girl, clearly not from the life which ignited a controversy in TLS in 1998. Since I have never put this one on any of my blogs or my website as I do not care for it (to me this image looks like a muscle-less feeble imitation of a Lancret or rococo Frency lady), I’ll put a copy of this one directly on this blog:

and a full account of the controversy.

The second is Paula Byrne’s husband’s find, the miniature which precedes this blog (see above) and presented by Byrne to the public as plausibly of Jane Austen in a TV documentary hosted by Martha Kearney.

Deborah suggested Ms Kearney asked a good question early on in her program: Why are we so desperate to know what Jane Austen looked like? Her program showed why we care about this author. Deborah said th specialists consulted and dialogue made the program into a study of seeing. We watched a curator gasp in excited recognition; we heard Roy Strong grumble at being asked to put rubber gloves on “for [in his words] an amateur crummy piece of drawing that is ridiculous.”

To the program: we first leartn how the portrait has come to the public’s attention. Paula Byrne’s husband, Jonathan Bate, bought it for her for £2000 because it has written on its back “Miss Jane Austen.” Paula had a moment of recognition as soon as she saw the portrait. By going to Kearney and through her husband’s connections, Byrne was able to get quick access to specialists in fashion, costume history, literary history, and experts in forensic facial techniques. Byrne and Kearney claimed we know what most well-known people of the era and in that milieu looked like. Byrne believes this miniature will revolutionize our view of Austen. We then witness on the program how works of art are authenticated.

The program had a plot-design of suspense built in because at the end we were to have a jury of Deirdre LeFaye, Claudia Johnson, and Kathryn Sutherland (three respected Austen scholars) to decide the case. The argument was described throughout as an “uphill struggle.” The experts already mentioned plus people who studied portrait motif & frames could not rule out this image nor what we know of Austen’s later years when she stayed frequently with her brother in London around the area the buildings in the painting are located. The style of dress is 1812-14 and it’s very hard to fake a dress in such paintings. The generic features do not rule out Austen. A telling sequence took this image and overlaid it with images of her brothers For examples, look at the miniatures of Henry:



and finally Charles

Is there not a strong resemblance (only Henry stands out and it’s because the artist is so much better at capturing a living complex mind behind the face). Art historians confirmed the Byrne portrait is poor: the head does not sit properly on the body, her right arm is too long. The noses are especially similar.

There were some thoughtful remarks by scholars interwoven in: Claire Tomalin said “people long to find a portrait of an author or people they admire; there she is at last.” “There” she is speaks to our sense that this person as seen as been in a room, really existed, and this is a relic as well as a record, evidence from the moment. Barthes wrote of how we read books to find the author in them confiding in us; we seek intimacy as we read or enjoy a book.

What the program suggested — that this image could teach us what Austen looked like — is just what it showed us could not be so. The image of Jane Austen her readers have comes from a reading of her texts (novels, letters) and nowadays perhaps what we feel in watching the film adaptations: we seek confirmation of an identity we are conjuring up. We look to see our expectations met. Each of us characterizes “our” Jane Austen. It’s not that we have nothing to go on; the program demonstrated that we have a developed sense of what we are looking for, what she looked like, her inner self shining out.

Jane Austen had no oil painting (£300 the average price) nor even a miniature (£30), which was accorded each of her brothers but Edward, who had a full-length oil painting done of him when young and on tour as a gentleman. Many readers are not happy with the image of Jane scowling, her arms crossed, almost mocking the genre (as it were). Byrne’s theory is that Jane snuck off between 1814 and 1816 when in London and for one time in her life flush with some money paid for an amateur to paint her as an author all dolled up. The problem with this is would not James Edward Austen-Leigh have known or found out about it when he and Anna and Caroline (his sisters, Jane’s nieces) were seeking images for the memoir.

At the end of the program the three famous scholars had their say and it seemed they were reacting to the portrait according to some internalized image inside themselves. LeFaye rejected it adamantly: “too solemn, too sanctimonious, no I could not accept that.” Johnson was glad to move away from both Cassandra’s dark and/or absent images. Sutherland alone did try to distinguish the real Jane Austen from all these images. Deborah presented them as open-minded, not looking through a narrowly personal lens. (Nor Tomalin who offered the idea the woman in the portrait was trying to look official, a lady author.) They all four agreed it lacks skill; what artist could Jane have afforded?

But if we step back a moment we can remember that all images are mediated, be they paintings or modern photographs; all are shaped by contemporary conventions, the media used and all show the relationship between the creator and subject as much as anything else. Cassandra’s image reflects Cassandra’s reaction to her sister and people have suggested its darkness, the tiredness of the sitter (she looks like she has not had a good night’s rest for several days) is the result of poor drawing, blotting the ink. Perhaps this one too does not persuade and is not really like Austen because it too is poor. Deborah thought this might be a portrait of a woman comfortable in her own skin who meant to be triumphant and thrilling but the ineptness of the artist could not put this across.

Deborah herself was falling back on her own book, Jane Austen among Women and her pre-conception. She suggested perhaps Jane was encouraged to have her portrait done by a woman friend; in her women’s circles, the women spoke far more confidently, and this is a product of her woman’s culture. As such, it’s endearing. Apparently Deborah at first liked the citation of Eliza Chute as the go-between who hired the painter, but as Byrne has dropped this idea (having over-emphasized Austen’s closeness to Chute) so has Deborah moved away.

No portrait can tell us what she looked like since we all see each one differently.


Jane Austen’s pelisse?

Deborah then threw the discussion open to all the audience and asked for a show of hands which of us thought this was audience and with a number raising their hands “yes” she looked surprised. She asked who said “no” and there were many more hands. She asked those who were willing to say why to volunteer what they had written down the Byrne portrait image she had handed out as a xerox at the opening.

The discussion was great fun as people were frank. I learned some new facts and about new paraphernalia associated with Austen I had not known about before. For example, there is a pelisse at Chawton cottage which is claimed to have been worn by Austen. But it is so tiny she would have to have been much shorter than 5 five 3 and very thin and all that has been said (and Cassandra’s portraits) show us a chubby and speak of a tall woman (5 five 7); Henry is said to have been tall, and so too Charles. Some people made intriguing observations: why did Cassandra draw Austen as depressed and unhappy even if she was? would not Cassandra have wanted to present a conventional happy image to the world, or simply remember Jane that way herself. One young woman said, oh yes, when she saw that face (in the Paula Byrne miniature) she said, that’s her, I know it. (Recognize her, this confirms my pre-conception.)

My contribution was to congratulate Deborah upon invalidating all of our arguments in the first place by arguing they were all reflecting our previously conceived Austen and whether the Byrne or Cassandra images confirmed that. I also liked her second sceptical reminder: that it may be that the portrait does not look like Jane very much because it’s so poor. But when I (and others) suggested that she was making us begin to entertain seriously the idea Byrne’s miniature was meant to be Jane, Deborah reminded us all that Byrne is an indepedent scholar, holds no position at a university (meaning she probably has no income of her own and is dependent on her husband). It costs to do research (traveling about, money for reproduction). If Bryne convinces people this is Jane Austen, she will not only sell her biography more widely, she will be able to see her miniature for something like 1 million pounds.



Anna Chancellor (played Miss Bingley in the 1995 P&P)

And so I come to an explanation for the presence of Anna Chancellor’s image at the top of this blog.

Over supper in the evening we (Izzy and I) discussed the portrait with Jim for the first time. It quickly emerged that when all has been said that can be, the case for the miniature being Austen still rests on a lack of evidence. Everything generally historical about it places it in Austen’s era but nothing else is known. The narrative of Austen sneaking off and turning to women friends is wholly made up. We can say this because (it’s said) we know little about how she spent all her days in London. But she didn’t have to have her portrait done at all. In Cassandra’s, she seems strongly adverse to having her image taken.

Izzy remembered in her blog the woman who said she thought Byrne’s miniature was Austen because it reminded her of Anna Chancellor, the actress who played Miss Bingley in the 1995 P&P and who is said to be a descendent of the Austens somehow or other. for my part I do see it and apart from Miss Bingley I often like the roles Anna Chancellor plays. I have to say that were a jury to hear the story of this attempt at a dignified image by Austen and her women friends, a judge would tell us the evidence for both theories is nil.

Does it matter? Yes. Does it matter to us what our authoress looked like? Deborah’s talk confirmed why a “yes” is not silly. To me Cassandra’s two portraits confirm what I feel is true about Jane Austen: nothing phony, more than a little asocial (understandably, for good reasons); on one day in 1810 she’s worn down, worn out by her marginalized position, tired from her efforts at living and writing against the odds, and as in her poetry, suffering bad headaches. On another six years earlier we see her in better spirits and loving to be absorbed in landscape, in reverie.


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Sense and Sensibility, the first edition (1811)

Dear friends and readers,

We have had another break in time (see Letter 69, 28 July 1809), the longest since the 3 and 4 month break between May 1801 when (in Letter 38) we left an apparently more equable, somewhat less strained Jane still at Paragon Buildings; and did not have any evidence from her of her existence, what like, where, until September 1804 (Letter 39) she writes from Lyme, in a spirit of recovery.

21 months.

It is of course tempting to say there were no letters because even if (the probabilities are strongly on the side of this), Cassandra kept going off to Godmersham and other relatives, Jane was just too immersed in her writing to give anything to letters. The evidence though is all along she wrote in the mornings, and often all morning long. When we pick up with her again, we see the same social life carried on as we had seen in 1809.

This is also an enormously cheerful letter; she is just super-lively and it is a long letter to keep this up. Even what she clearly dislikes is presented as well, thank the stars that’s over: “I bless my stars that I have done with tuesday” (the day of course caught my eye). She drops accurate observations: “Theo'” … came back in time to shew his usual nothing-meaning, harmless, heartless Civility.” It’s the “harmless” going with “heartless” that shows toleration today She is living with Henry just now and Eliza and a party is planned, a big one, not usually Jane’s thing. But she says here she “finds all these little parties pleasant.”

What do we see generally: Jane is again attempting to build a female community. She has a real relationship again with a woman servant, French in origin if her name means anything, Manon (but we have to note against that she calls one of the musicians a “hireling”). Jane has gained a new peer companion woman friend, Mary Cook who Jane Austen longs to take back with her to Chawton. Mary is another of these fringe women who never married. She has also successfully arranged to visit another woman friend, Catherine Bigg, now Mrs Hill and the plan is to take Mary to Catherine and perhaps the three of them proceed to Chawton. It didn’t happen. But she wants it.

She still gets so much pleasure from walking ” We are come back, after a good dose of Walking & Coaching” (her and Eliza). There is news of her sailor brothers; there is her intense pleasure in Henry’s presence, Henry who we will later learn is centrally instrumental in the coming publication of Sense and Sensibility “by a Lady.” What is not said is Jane Austen is in London because she has taken it on her own to edit and prepare for printing, and printed a third of that original set of three novels from Steventon, now called (as of the next letter) S&S, and is awaiting proofs. This it is that cheers and buoys her so strongly.

Still I think something happened which prompted — helped prompt her acting at last. It could be in the form of encouragement, but it also could be in the form of reaction to something that occurred at Chawton that told her “enough” and I must do this or just die away. This letter for all its cheer has two pieces cut out or pasted over


From the opening of 1971 BBC S&S: Marianne (Ciaran Madden), Mrs (Isabel Dean) and Elinor (Joanna David) Dashwood must leave Norland

The letter opens with an effusiveness towards Cassandra. She has too many things to record – she seems to feel alive by recording them. So she had better get them down.

What is she doing? visited with the Cookes – their lodgings were in Bentick St. Again female single friends and not overly rich, for LeFaye describes one Cooke as someone who rented Camilla. The Arnold family are relations of the Cookes who knew the Austens in Bath too. The Cookes were connected by a previous generation having married into the Leigh family (a Cassandra Leigh – the name popular to flatter a Countess they were related to, soften her up).

I have so many little matters to tell you of, that I cannot wait any longer before I begin to put them down. — I spent tuesday in Bentinck St; the Cookes called here & took me back; & it was quite a Cooke day, for the Miss Rolles paid a visit while I was there, & Sam Arnold dropt in to tea.

She had planned to see another single woman friend but the rain stopped her. This is Maria or Mary who lives in London and earns her keep as a hostess for her widowed brother-in-law. But no matter, Mary Cooke (the woman Austen later plans/longs to bring back to Chawton with her) goes to the Liverpool Museum with Jane. Jane’s taste and interest here reminds me of Mary Crawford. The other name for the museum was Bullock’s and it appears to have been filled with stuffed birds; also reptiles, arms, some works of art. I’d like to think Austen was also turned off by the stuffed birds, and entertained (satirically) by the nonsense and indifference of those at the museum.

The badness of the weather disconcerted an excellent plan of mine, that of calling on Miss Beckford again, but from the middle of the day it rained incessantly. Mary & I, after disposing of her Father & Mother, went to the Liverpool Museum, the British Gallery, & I had some amusement at each, tho’ my preference for Men & Women, always inclines me to attend more to the company than the sight. —

Alas, the mother does not want to give Mary up to Jane. First, apologies lest Cassandra have been offended they did not open their doors to her. We have an excised strip. Austen maybe emitted a bitter comment about this snubbing. The servant blunder suggests the Austen sisters did not dress in a way or present themselves sufficiently in a way that signaled their importance; indeed far from that. They are still far from monied. We’ve seen this before – when the Austens were not let in in Southampton. So this single mature woman earns her keep by being the nurse. The mother will only concede this if a brother appears and men we know don’t have to do this. Women’s work

Mrs Cooke regrets very much that she did not see you when you called, it was oweing blunder among the servants, for she did not know of our visit till we were gone. — She seems tolerably well; but the nervous part of her Complaint I fear increases, & makes her more & more unwilling to part with Mary. — I have proposed to the latter that she should go to Chawton with me, on the supposition of my traveling the Guildford road-& she I do beleive, would be glad to do it, but perhaps it may be impossible; unless a Brother can be at home at that time, it certainly must. —

It’s here we get the sudden darker note that is undercut. It was irritating to Austen to see how these young men got away with acting indifference. She also didn’t care for Theodore’s professions of friendship. Clearly it’s all on the surface since he won’t offer to be helpful to the mother so the sister can have some life space and friendship. Now I see the origin of “heartless” is specific. (That’s why one close reads).

George comes to them to day. I did not see Theo’ till late on Tuesday; he was gone to Ilford, but he came back in time to shew his usual, nothing-meaning, harmless, heartless Civility. —


From the opening of 1981 BBC S&S: Mrs Dashwood (Diane Fairfax) and Marianne (Tracey Childs Madden), facing Elinor in the coach on their way back from having seen an acceptable too expensive place to rent

Henry picked her up on the way home from the frustrating end of her visit to the Cookes. He threw life and wit into the Cook party. So there had been none. Off they went in a hackney coach. Austen alone didn’t dare. How I wish I knew what happened on that Tuesday; not that the novel’s use of Tuesday comes from this day — as the day is already embedded in S&S, but that to Austen Tuesday was (apparently) automatically a signal to groan and/or dread something to be gotten over as an ordeal.

Henry, who had been confined the whole day to the Bank, took me in his way home; & after putting Life & Wit into the party for a quarter of an hour, put himself & his Sister into a Hackney coach. — I bless my stars that I have done with tuesday! —

Whew. It’s over. Alas Wedneday turned out also to “be a day of great doings.” Austen likes quiet (that I know from the novels as well as the letters) — except for dances; that is the one exception. Austen goes shopping with Eliza’s French maid. Crews is a loosely woven embroidered yarn.

But alas! — Wednesday was likewise a day of great doings, for Manon & I took our walk to Grafton House, & I have a good deal to say on that subject. I am sorry to tell you that I am getting very extravagant & spending all my Money; & what is worse for you, I have been spending yours too; for in a Linendraper’s shop to which I went for check’d Muslin, & for which I was obliged to give seven shillings a yard, I was tempted by a pretty coloured muslin, & bought 10 yards of it, on the chance of your liking it;-but at the same time if it should not suit you, you must not think yourself at all obliged to take it; it is only 3/6 per yard, & I should not in the least mind keeping the whole.-In texture, it is just what we prefer, but its’ resemblance to green crews I must own is not great, for the pattern is a small red spot. — ?

A briefly (?) censored passage: Austen is referring to some private mortification of Cassandra’s. Something Cassandra needed or wanted and she could not bear to read herself nor allow anyone else. Austen did not realize how sore Cassandra was here. She sounds satisfied with what’s she ‘s done and written. “now I believe I have done all my commissions. All that’s left is to buy Wedgwood china (earthenware, British made) and the tone is complacent.

–?[I took the opportunity of buying some ((two words lost here) for you], & now I beleive I have done all my commissions, except Wedgwood.

A full account of Manon and their time shopping: she loved to walk, she is comfortable with this servant. They did have to wait. They are not important people nor look it. When they were finally attended to, she was satisfied and didn’t over spend. Still a central consideration.

I liked my walk very much; it was shorter than I had expected, & the weather was delightful. We set off immediately after breakfast & must have reached Grafton House by 1/2 past 11 –, but when we entered the Shop, the whole Counter was thronged, & we waited full half an hour before we could be attended to. When we were served however, I was very well satisfied with my purchases, my Bugle Trimming at 2/4ds & 3 pt silk Stockings for a little less than 12.1/S. a pt

Another turn. The way back:. This is a different Mr Moore from the novelist or the general: Mr Moore of Wrotham. She likes him and their mutual acquaintance, the Bridges. LeFaye quotes Halsted (a historian of Kent) to the effect that this Mr Moore “was universally hated” but does suggest why. Austen is just chortling with happiness: the milliner (daughter of a haberdasher) who makes her a new pretty bonnet must make her a straw one.

Probably not precisely the kind of straw hat Jane had made for her

Nothing less will do for the published novelist. She confesses she is “shocking” but delighting in this small affordable extravagance and anyway backtracks to say it was “not dear at a Guinea.” Still the buttons are high:

— In my way back, who should I meet but Mr Moore, just come from Beckenham. I beleive he would have passed me, if I had not made him stop-but we were delighted to meet. I soon found however that he had nothing new to tell me, & then I let him go.-Miss Burton has made me a very pretty little Bonnet — & now nothing can satisfy me but I must have a straw hat, of the riding hat shape, like Mrs Tilson’s; & a young woman in this Neighbourhood is actually making me one. I am really very shocking; but it will not be dear at a Guinea. — Our Pelisses are 17/S. each — she charges only 81 for the making, but the Buttons seem expensive; — are expensive, I might have said — for the fact is plain enough. —

Then who they drank tea with when they got back to Sloane Street, and how they will see these people tomorrow at another small social party (not devoted to cards you see): Henry would have taken her to the play at the Lyceum to crown the day but she has a cold. The Tilsons’ connection is to Henry as militia people (Henry had been in the local militia). Smiths are friends of Tilsons. (How circles widen in this way.) Austen uses a joke name for Mrs Smith who sings well and may sing tomorrow night. We are not told which play but Lyceum was an opera house, not one of the two patented theaters. Perhaps they did plays there too, sung ones.

We drank tea again yesterday with the Tilsons, & met the Smiths. — I find all these little parties very pleasant. I like Mr S. Miss Beaty is good humour itself, & does not seem much besides. We spend tomorrow even with them, & are to meet the Coln & Mrs Cantelo Smith, you have been used to hear of; & if she is in good humour, are likely to have excellent singing. — To night I might have been at the Play, Henry had kindly planned our going together to the Lyceum, but I have a cold which I should not like to make worse before Saturday; — so, I stay within, all this day. —

And that’s why she’s in right now writing all this up.


From opening scene of 1995 Miramax S&S: the death of Mr Henry Dashwood (Tim Wilkinson): he tells his son that the son must help them

On Friday the note is short: A party in the works, just the sort of thing to associate with Eliza Austen. We can see Jane imagining Cassandra reading aloud the letter to Fanny and what is implied is that sometimes Fanny grows restless and doesn’t listen. (From her diary entries it’s clear she wasn’t inward or thoughtful at all, no indication of anything about the people’s she’s with either.)

In the notes LeFaye tells us a married couple named Egerton were friends of Eliza and surmises that Henry was their son. The Walter family are descendents of George Austen (Henry and Jane’s father)’s mother, Rebecca Hampson who in her first married married a George Walter. William Hampson Walter was half-brother to George and these are their descendents (how clannish patronage and the need to curry favor for everything made everyone). Henry the eldest son of the Rev James Walter. I wonder who “her” prejudice refers to, and see in the pointed reference an allusion to Austen’s novel, First Impressions — by that time perhaps it was called Pride and Prejudice, but in any case, the theme of Elizabeth’s prejudice was in it without the change of title. There’s a been a softening as Jane earlier refused to admit to any pleasure since she had so little knowledge of high cultured music. I feel what she disliked was hypocritical effusions of pleasure.

so, I stay within, all this day.– Eliza is walking out by herself. She has plenty of business on her hands just now — for the day of the Parry is settled, & drawing near; — above 80 people are invited for next tuesday Evening & there is to be some very good Music, 5 professionals, 3 of them Glee-singers, besides Amateurs. — Fanny will listen to this. One of the Hirelings, is a Capital on the Harp, from which I expect great pleasure.– The foundation of the party was a dinner to Henry Egerton & Henry Walter” — but the latter leaves Town the day before. I am sorry — as I wished her prejudice to be done away — but she have been more sorry if there had been no invitation. —

She does know all this is shallow superficial she says; but perhaps she also worried about Cassandra’s response, felt Cassandra would expect more interest in family matters (naturally) as well as her own longed-for visit to Mrs Knight, whom they both like and was so generous to them both. The idea is one we see in Austen’s Persuasion — we care about the worlds we are in and forget those away from us:

I am a wretch to be so occupied with all these Things, as to seem to have no Thought to give to people & circumstances which really supply a far more lasting interest — the Society in which You are — but I do think of you all I assure you, & want to know all about everybody, & especially about your visit to the W Friars; “mais le moyen” not to be occupied with one’s own concerns?-


From opening scene of 2000 Sri Surya I have found it a helicopter in war lands Captain Bala [Colonal Brandon character] (Mammootty)

Saturday also brings unhappy naval politics. Henry’s connections brought the news from a clerk in the ticket office. So Henry had been sniffing around.

Let us recall that Gambier was the Admiral that George Austen applied to; he was the patron who got Frank and Charles on, and now he’s gone & another man brings his flunkies in. In such a world, it does not matter what your merit is; without law and rule and precedents (held to say by unions or some other mechanism) patronage trumps all. This is worrying. Not only the problem of where to live but what to live in if he does descend into half pay. Deborah Kaplan has a striking article about how Charles had his family in the ship; the realities that caused this (lack of money for a separate establishment) are slid over in the conversation in Persuasion.

Frank is superseded in the Caledonia. Henry brought us this news yesterday from Mr Daysh & he heard at ­the same time that Charles may be in England in the course of a month. — Sir Edwd Pellew succeeds Lord Gambier in his command, & some Captain of his, succeeds Frank; & I beleive the order is already gone out. Henry means to enquire farther to day; — he wrote to Mary on the occasion. — This is something to think of. — Henry is convinced that he will have the offer of something else, but does not think it will be at all incumbent on him to accept it; & then follows, what will he do? & where will he live? —

Again Jane thinks to herself she must mention Cassandra — this awareness of her interlocutor is keen and controlling. She wants to hear about Cassandra’s health — holding up against strain of mothering Edward’s younger children still. Mrs Austen is doing fine.

— I hope to hear from you today. How are you, as to Health, strength, Looks, stomach &c? — I had a very comfortable account from Chawton yesterday —

Then Eliza remembered and the plans for the day and evening ahead this Saturday: Austen gets a much much less expensive item. Again the play will be missed. It was a bother to go to plays; you had to send a servant early to hold your seat for you; a crowd, and not at all exclusive:

— If the Weather permits, Eliza & I walk into London this morning — she is in want of chimney lights for Tuesday; — & I, of an ounce of darning cotton. — She has resolved not to venture to the Play tonight.

Two of the people who did not come to the party, friends from France who were interesting people; D’Entraigues a scholar, forger, double agent married to an opera singer so they’d like a musical party. (We are told by LeFaye they were murdered in their house in 1812, a high price is paid for this kind of “high” stakes life style.) Instead they will visit this group the following evening. Jane’s words suggests she finds this preferable. It would be. The people might actually get to talk to one another for real.

The D’Entraigues & Comte Julien cannot come to the Party — which was at first a greif, but she has since supplied herself so well with Performers that it is of no consequence;­ their not coming has produced our going to them tomorrow Even! ­which I like the idea of. It will be amusing to see the ways of a French circle.

Much is made by David Nokes and other biographies of this party, but Jane Austen says it is not what she cares deeply about at all; it’s an “amusing” interest to see ways of other cultures. It’s the next few lines that show something she cares about.

Another woman friend. What she looks forward to is visiting Catherine Bigg (now Mrs Hill), and note the words used here. She had had to explain herself to make this smooth. I think her penchant for these women friends aroused distrust; it was different and it was noticed. It’s not clear if it was Henry to whom she originally applied to live that way of life with Martha and Cassandra in 1809; at the time it was Frank who was pointed to and we heard nothing of it. Jane was turned down. In any case Eliza has now replaced Martha.

Note too at long last Jane has made her own travel plans. If brother James cannot be bothered, “I can take care of myself” A new good note to hear but notice that all are conceding this to her; they are being kind. It’s not a right quite, but something they could have resented and she had to fight for and achieve (and thus is fragile).

In the early part of the letter she has had to give Mary Cooke up. She wanted to take Mary Cooke to Mrs Hill, spend time there and then with Mary on to Chawton. This sort of thing is what I am reading these letters so carefully to pick up.

I wrote to Mrs Hill a few days ago, & have received a most kind & satisfactory answer; my time, the first week in May, exactly suits her; & therefore I consider my Goings as tolerably fixed. I shall leave Sloane Street on the 1 st or 2& be ready for James on ye 9th;& if his plan alters, I can take care of myself. — I have explained my veiws here, & everything is smooth & pleasant; & Eliza talks kindly of conveying me to Streatham. —

And a final detail before going out with Eliza for these purchases: if you look at the Tilson family, you see again a number of unmarried females. The rest of the sentence is half-ironic: some pair of women who sing as part of their social act and some one related to them irritated because she could not show off about it.

We met the Tilsons yesterday Evening but the Singing Smiths sent an excuse-which put our Mrs Smith out of humour.


From opening scene of 2008 BBC S&S: Willoughby’s seduction of Eliza Williams: we see his hand approaching her breast

It’s still Saturday and Jane has returned to her writing desk. Whatever the family might like to claim, this was not hidden writing. It could not have been. The few instances we have of (nearly or at least covertly) uncensored sets with none missing show a rhythm of diary-letters every 3-4 days and these are diary. Rather like someone with a blog at hand.

Her great pleasure at walking. It’s a form of salutary medicine, a good dose. It seems that her eldest James Austen has written some new verses that Mrs Knight wants to see and Cassandra has written for them to be copied out. Jane does not have them; they were left at Chawton. We have to realize both sisters are from home, and that Chawton is not far from where Steventon still stood. Note the politeness of the deferrent society: the woman may have given them enough money to live on now and again, but Jane needs leave to write directly.

We are come back, after a good dose of Walking & Coaching, & I have the pleasure of your letter. — I wish I had James’s verses, but they were left at Chawton. When I return thither, if Mrs K, will give me :leave, I will send them to her.

Where did they walk and ride to? We are not told all of it, only the most important. It seems they would have preferred Shakespeare’s King John to his Hamlet. I know King John was liked in the 18th century: the story of internecine monarchical politics, and the emotional and tragic mother, with the famous speech of “convenience,” commodity in the play. Commodity rules the world. So they won’t go. If LeFaye had done her homework since the 3rd edition, she would have found out who was playing that night (but she has not — she consistently will research the tiniest point about an acquaintance of Austen’s especially when related to someone “important” but not research literary or art or musical works) because I’ve a hunch it does have to do with the cast.

Instead they will go to Macbeth Monday evening. Tomorrow they have their smaller friendly circle of French friends, and next Tuesday (which might mean this Tuesday in modern language) the party of 80 (or so), the musicians coming. On Jane’s mind though is this disappointment which Eliza shares. Even the few letters we’ve had about theater (like in Southampton when she worried Martha had not been enough) show she went to the theater much more than we realize and cared about it.

— Our first object to day was Henrietta Street to consult with Henry, in consequence of a very unlucky change of the day for this very night — Hamlet instead of King John — & we are to go on Monday to Macbeth, instead, but it is a disappointment to us both.

Love to all. Yours affectionately Jane.
Godmersham Park Faversham Kent


From first episode of 2008 BBC S&S: one of our first clear views of the whole Dashwood family (Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, Janet McTeer, Lucy Boynton) in mourning for the death of their father

By going slow over these details we not only see the plan to take Mary Cooke back to Chawton as a substitute for Martha, but another part of this plan: Jane intended to and was still going early from Sloane street for a visit to Catherine Bigg; what she really had in mind was all three women together, and then she and Mary carrying on alone to Chawton. I had not seen that until looking carefully.

In this case also a rare instance of her saying she will make her own travel arrangements; I’m struck by how she had to smooth things over to be allowed to leave early and fulfill this desire for a congenial time just as much as the relatives finally giving in. Perhaps seeing her pro-active on behalf of S&S has worked in her favor. People have a way of giving to someone they regard as strong what they want and not to someone they had not had to respect.


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Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807), Portrait of a woman dressed as a vestal virgin

Dear friends and readers,

A third and last blog on my time at the South Central ASECS (see Panoramas and Ann Radcliffe’s landscapes), again mostly on the papers I heard: Saturday was a long satisfying day, sessions all day long, and I did session-hop. I spent my morning listening to panels on women essayists, novelists & poets; in the afternoon I heard papers connected to Shakespeare in the 18th century (which turned out to be on Sarah Siddons, Anne Hathaway and Mary Lamb). The banquet featured a keynote address on Joanna Baillie’s letters, and if I’m not mistaken, I heard a paper on a Vietnamese woman poet


Frances Reynolds (1729-1807), Self-portrait, with her sister, Mary

The early morning session (Panel 18, 8:30 – 10:00 am) was “Communities of Women.” Kristin Distel (“Mary Astell’s Empirical Feminism: Marriage of Conservatism and Autonomy”) argued Astell sought to reconcile her religious faith with a genuine feminism; basically within the restrictive confines of patriarchy (Astell did not acknowledge women had a right to divorce), she carved out a space for women to study and work independently in proposed academic communities. Samantha Anne Cahill (“Between Moon-shine and Fire-light: Turning, Crossing, and Passing in Jane Barker’s The Lining of the Patchwork Screen“) suggested Barker, a pro-Jacobite Catholic, used Islam as a threat to bring Catholics and Protestants together. Adam Fletcher (“A ‘Proper’ Ending: Pamela v A Simple Story) compared Inchbald’s heroines to Richardson’s Pamela to show that Inchbald creates a strong sexually-desirous independent heroine in Miss Milner and defied gender roles; she is a replacement for Pamela as a norm (however punished).

Kelli MacCartney (“Prospects for Women: Cannon-building Vision in Mary Scott’s The Female Advocate [1774]”) described how this poem asserted a long tradition of women laying claim to education, knowledge, cultural taste. Women should not be prohibited from cultivating the sciences; they have been coerced into obeying values to which they didn’t want to conform. Ms MacCartney named some of the women Scott celebrated: Katherine Parr (Henry VIII’s sixth & learned wife), Anne Killigrew (poet and musician), Rachel Russell (politician, letter-writer), Constantia Grierson (an Irish poet and scholar, apprenticed as a midwife), Anna Barbauld (poet, essayist, editor, teacher).

Alas (no fault of the four papers), I found myself remembering Anne Oakley’s Subject Women, one of whose central themes is how there is a disconnect between how accomplished women can become, how far they can go in places of learning and the actual jobs and places in professions they are allowed to achieve. Nonetheless, an inspiriting paper.

A cover illustration for an edition of Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho

It was during the mid-morning session I switched from one session to another. I began in “Making the Book, Meditating the Enlightenment” (Panel 21, 10:15- 11:45 am) and heard most of Adam Miller’s paper on Ann Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest (“The Container and the Gothic: Reading the Abbey”). Mr Miller’s paper was based on Heidegger’s ideas about thingness, and Mr Miller talked of containers people build for themselves as shelter and what can make for progress (inside for comfort) but (in this novel) also slavery and imprisonment. I did not understand the paper very well (because I often find Heidegger a mystifier), but gathered Mr Miller saw the novel as pessimistic and proving some of Foucault’s contentions about the 18th century. The hero-villain of the The Abbey, La Motte, who flees into the forest, almost kills and is almost killed; the characters in the novel seek to be civilized but are surrounded by the darkness and death of history.

Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun (1755-1842), The Princess Belozersky

I returned to “Women in the Eighteenth Century,” this time under the rubric of “Vistas of Virtue and Vanity” (Panel 22, also 10:15 – 11:45 am), to hear the most of Kristen Hague’s paper on Charlotte Lennox’s novel, The Life of Harriot Stuart where she showed the strength of the novel lay in the complexity and intelligence of the central character. Harriot sees life as an adventure; her choices would be subtle but she finds herself in a world where men imprison women. Dawn M. Goode (“Violent Virtue in Burney’s Evelina“) demonstrated that Burney felt women were responsible for the sexual harassment they endure (when they don’t say obey conventions); Madame Duval deserved the abusive cruel treatment inflicted on her; the women authority figures collude with the men. Burney’s is a conservative book. One hear so much special pleading and strained arguments that to hear the problems in Burney’s first novel plainly stated was refreshing.

I really also liked Steven Gores’ paper on Sophia Lee, “Negotiating Literary Celebrity and Ladylike Gentility.” He retold the lives of Sophia and her sister, Harriet Lee, briefly, and argued that the moves Sophia made in her life, the choices of what to write, when to cease writing, when to open a school, how to advertise it, and how later in life to publish again came out of Lee’s conscious creation of a respectable persona and this persona served her and her sister, Harriet very well. There were originally 4 sisters; one married for love and vanishes from records. The father, an unpopular actor, ended in a debtor’s prison. When she had a great stroke of luck in the popularity of her play, A Chapter of Accidents, she took the money and invested it in a school in Bath. Her gothic, The Recess, was presented as a historical novel; a tragedy failed. With her sister, Harriet, she published The Canterbury Tales which was a respectable hit; one of its stories influenced Byron. Friends included Sarah Siddons and Hester Thrale Piozzi. By 1804 she could risk publishing her The Life of a Lover, an autobiographical novel (it reads like a memoir). They had by this time sold the school and retired to Clifton.


Eggplant parmesan

At this point there was a 2 hour and 15 minute break for lunch. Happily, Jim and I went to lunch with an old friend of mine and a friend of hers. We went into Asheville using Jim’s car and ate yummy food in a place called The Cafe Jerusalem. I had some eggplant parmesan and wine and we all enjoyed good talk. Then we returned for the last part of the conference: the afternoon sessions, a brief reception (drinks) and the banquet, together with the last plenary address.

I really meant to go to a session on women’s life-writing to hear a paper on Teresa Constantia Phillips’s “scandal memoir,” but was too late so hurried off to “Shakespeare in the 18th century” (Panel 27, 2:00 – 3:30 pm), which looked and turned out to be more papers on women. Darlene Giraulo (“Monsters and Fairies: Mary Lamb’s Retelling of The Tempest“) described how Lamb had rewritten Shakespeare’s story to marginalize Caliban’s part and write a story about the education of a young girl (Miranda). Hannah Ruehl argued that in Aphra Behn’s Rover she rewrote Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew (quite literally as she made parallels between these plays).

Joshua Reynolds (1723-92), Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse (1784)

Christy Desmet (“Sarah Siddons as an Icon”) discussed central sources during Siddons’ life and immediately afterward for her life and reputation. Reynold’s image of Siddons mattered; James Boaden, Thomas Campbell, and Siddons’ own memoirs, Anna Jameson’s portrait. These combined to reinforce her as a revered passionately engaged actress. She was shown late in life surrounded by her family (not quite true). Katherine Scheil also discussed the image of her subject, rather than the subject herself: “Anne Hathaway in the Eighteenth Century” was about how the image of Shakespeare’s wife has changed over the centuries. At first she was hardly mentioned, and Shakespeare was presented as something of a rake (Davenent half-claimed he was Shakespeare’s illegitimate son). It was Betterton who first named Anne and presented Shakespeare as basically a happily married man. The will with the legacy of the 2nd best bed was early on seen as evidence of a lack of love, but the 19th century preferred to see a couple of young lovers. Wm Ireland contributed by having forged a love letter from Hathaway with a lock of her hair.

The group discussion afterward veered from discussing the latest operatic rewrite of The Tempest (the Met Enchanted Island) to tourism in Stratford, to modern actresses’ attempts to shape their reputation.

One of Blake’s many illustrations to Dante

The last session was on “Overlooked Texts” (Panel 30 3:30 – 4:45 pm). I came in late for Susan Spencer’s paper (“The Risky Business of Being a Poet at the dawn of Vietnam’s Nguyen Dynasty”) on Ho Xuan Huong’s poems: those she read were mostly short, lovely, could be read backwards and through the use of puns several ways at once (they were often quietly sexy). Gloria Eive told us about her adventures in the Mazzolini papers at Faenza, Italy. Martin Lansverk (“Nearly Forgotten Texts in Blake’s Dante Illustrations”) discussed little noticed words Blake supplied under his pictures which turn out to be a guide on how to read Blake’s reaction to Dante’s text in these pictures. James McGinnis’s “Hobbes’s Thucydides” was about how Hobbes found in Thucydides much material consonant with his own pessimistic and conservative philosophy.


Contemporary illustration of George Anne Bellamy and David Garrick playing Romeo and Juliet

I have but two more papers, these just to mention. I missed a paper I would have loved to hear on George Anne Bellamy. Unfortunately the title was an insufficient signpost for me. Joanne Cordon’s “All the Stage’s a World” was about George Anne Bellamy’s benefit performances: what parts she played, how she drummed up support from influential people to come and bring others, and how much money she made (this was the first paper for Panel 10, “Tricks of the Trade: Stagecraft and Culture, High, Low and Popular”, 8:00 – 9:30 am on Friday). Jim told me about it and brought me the handout, a full list of all the parts Bellamy played that we know about, the parts she did for benefits, and what we know of her receipts (a lot). I didn’t miss but I didn’t take in Judith Bailey Slagle’s “Representations of History, Criticism and Feminism in the Letters of Joanna Baillie,” not because it was not clear and interesting (especially the details of critical reading of other writers), but because I had already dined very well as they say, couldn’t hear that well and was too tired to remember what she said later.

It was that evening we all retired to a beautiful room with glass walls overlooking the green landscape all around the Grove Park Inn. There we had waiting for us a Celtic band, drinks and snacks, tables and chairs to sit at, and a floor to dance on. I did dance as often as I could find someone to dance with me.

And so ended a really rejuvenating, gratifying and instructive time away. We were up early the next morning and drove the 8 hours back where I had much to do to prepare for teaching the next day.


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Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), Pilgrimage to Cythera

Dear friends and readers,

It is probably more than time for me to share my notes from this enjoyable conference at Asheville, North Carolina.

The first session I went to was on Thursday afternoon just after lunch (Panel 1, 12:30 – 2:00 pm): Terrifying Prospects and Psychological Landscapes: Visions and Vistas of the Gothic. This was the one where I gave my paper on “The Nightmare of History in Ann Radcliffe’s Landscapes”. I give the general gist of the two other enjoyable and concise papers: Robert Kottage (“Coining the Counterfeit: Truth and Artifice in Horace Walpole and his Castle of Otranto“) argued that although Walpole’s famous gothic “first,” is of poor aesthetic quality” (it does not succeed in doing what it sets out to), it’s a highly original work where we find massive pain behind the gothic masks. The characters are surrogates for Walpole, and the book an entirely serious attempt to express Walpole’s unconventional sensitive self; its themes are those of the gothic earnestly meant.

Jan Beerstraten (1622-66), Warmond Castle (1661) (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) — the secular historical landscape begins in mid-17th century

J. David Macey (“Panoramic Vistas and Prospective Deaths: Mary Hamilton, Munster Village and the Gothic Novel”) argued that Mary Hamilton employed unusual strategies in her novel: her characters retire to an estate and create a sort of Arcadia. Her novel is a Rousseauistic (many allusions to Julie, ou La Nouvelle Heloise) recuperative gothic wehre the characters try out tableaux of historical dreams against the nightmare of history. Prof Macey felt Radcliffe was influenced by Hamilton.

The second session I attended (Panel 7, 2:15 – 3:45 pm), “Animals in the Eighteenth Century.” This time two relatively brief suggestive papers. Killian Quigley (“Seemingly Divested of the Ferocity of His Nature: Dean Mahomet’s Imperial Wild”) discussed The Travels of Dean Mahomet, A Native of Patna in Bengal, Through Several Parts of India, While in the Service of The Honourable The East India Company where the author championed the British presence in India. Mr Quigley suggested the presentation of the tiger in this book combined a de-mythologizing impulse with picturesque and 18th century Indian traditions.

This 18th century Royal Tiger Hunt clearly shows little compassion for the tiger (India, Rajasthan, Mewar, Udaipur)

Kathleen Grover (“Sense and Sentiment: Conflicting Views on Animals in the Writings of Descartes, Johnson, and Others”) discussed a shift in attitudes towards animals which encouraged people to empathize with them as having feelings equivalent in strength and quality to human beings; there was a growing anti-vivisection movement. She quoted to great effect some of Johnson’s writing.

Henry Raeburn (1756-1823), Portrait of Scottish violinist and composer Niel Gow (1727-1807)

The first plenary address was on a major theme of the conference beyond picturing: music, especially Scottish music. Professor and fiddler Jane MacMorran gave us a detailed survey of the modes and phases of “18th century Scottish Fiddle Music”. Basically she traced traditional Scottish music, the influence of sophisticated European art music (Italian) and local or regional forms. She or one or both of two of her students (also fine musicians) would play examples of each kind of music after she described its genesis, described it and told where it was popular. I really enjoyed listening to all the pieces, bagpipes, minuets, reels, gigs. The audience was just filled with people.


After the two first sessions, there was lively talk, sometimes supplementing what was said (on the development of animal rights and how far we have to go as yet), qualifying, objecting. In the session on the gothic, the political complexion of the mode was debated; in the session on attitudes towards animals we discussed how far we were still away from regarding animals as having an equivalent right to a life of quality. There was not much general talk after the musical lecture, but some specific questions. What was the kind of music heard in Scottish middle class drawing rooms in the later 18th century. What did Prof MacMorran mean to refer to by some of her terms? After the musical lecture, everyone adjoined to a reception area in the corridors overlooking the vast green landscapes around the hotel (appropriate to the theme) and we drank and had snacks and talked. Then Jim and I were fortunate enough to go into town to have dinner (Italian) with an old friend and new acquaintance.


Leicester Square, a Panorama

The next day began early, 8:00 am (Panel 3, to 9:30 am), and I went to a session whose subject was squarely that of the conference: “Anticipating the Long Eighteenth Century: Vistas in Literature and the Arts.” Three papers were accompanied by fold-out panoramas, scientific drawings, and plates commemorating events, city, town, and country places. Martha Lawlor (“As the Story Unfolds”) brought from the library where she is an Assistant to the head librarian the actual rare printed visions from the era. What I noticed most was that these were printed in small numbers and meant for an elite audience; what knowledge they did offer pictorially could not have spread far.

Panorama of the Battle of Sedan, Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Anton von Werner (British Library)

Linda Reesman (“Botanical Places and Poetical Spaces”) showed us images meant to accompany poetry by Coleridge (which idealized family, children, private sociability); she stressed how this poetry is nostalgic and shows his longing for childhood innocence. Kelly Malone (“Microscopic Vision: The Scientific Vision from the Other Side of the Lens”) showed us how people were disquieted (they had to question the validity of what they could see) by the perceived ugliness and totally different scale from the human one of the microscopic world, at the same time as it was influential and began an important useful journey in understanding the full universe (from diseases, to the structure of living things).

There really was not much talk afterwards as the papers were long and it had taken quite a time to get the power-point aspects of the talks to work. What there were were these panoramas from the rare book room of the Noel Collection spread out on desks. And people looked at them.

There was an Austen session, Panel 12 (9:45 – 11:15 am), “All About Austen.” Two excellent papers. Jena Al-Fuhai (“Gothic Letters: Austen and the Remnants of the Epistolary Novel”) demonstrated the Austen carried on using letters centrally in her novels; while parodying she retained, affirmed, re-created in her own idiom many gothic motifs we find in other novels of the era. Austen does not use letters as windows on the self so much as interventions in the stories which give rise to rupture and thus questioning (of the social order.) What was good about hers was the subtlety of her argument and her examples.

Anne Hathaway (who apparently embodies a modern desirable image for Austen) in Becoming Jane (2008)

Robert Dryden (“Knowing Jane: Pleasure, Passion, & Possession in the Jane Austen community”) basically talked about Austen fandom, how her readers are able to intimate narratives of her life that they fervently believe to be true because there is only the briefest suggestive evidence. She becames a portal, a site through which her readers dream of returning to an idyllic past. The audience afterward discussed the problematic questions of why Austen prompts this reaction, when the cult began, and why she appeals so, especially to women.

At this point there was a break for lunch; then Jim and I and many others went by three buses to the Biltmore mansion where we spent a long (tiring) afternoon. I felt the huge crowds I saw testified to how in the year 2012 the strongly hierarchical class-ridden society this Vanderbilt museum was run on is still central to American life.

A front view of the Biltmore castle (to the back are extension landscaped gardens)

It was telling to see that the rooms for display, the ones the family would have been least likely to use were the first we had to get through. Large with lots of flattering portraits, uncomfortable furniture and the visibilia of wealth and high connections. As we climbed higher, we saw evidence of family life (much idealized). Higher up the guests’ rooms (fancy, done according to color and thematic schemes), then higher yet the narrow corridors and bare rooms of servants. All the way down in the bowels of the building were the places the servants had worked very hard in, and a gym and pool for the wealthy visitors and family to use. In one room there were murals on the wall, evidence of a several day party where obviously the paricipants had gotten quite drunk at times. The prettiest things we saw where the gardens where much money is spent and time to make sure the tulips grow.

It was a mirror of what we were experiencing at Grove Park Inn. Where the 1% were served by those of the 99% docile or desperate enough to be let in. At Grove Park Inn I loved the landscape all around the many huge windows across its walls, and to see the super-expensive luxurious spa set in a vista of rocks; but the place never let one forget one was in this special rare environment only a tiny percentage of people get to enjoy. Jim remarked: “It’s a really glorious setting up in the mountains. People who bet on football refer to $50 bets as “nickels” and $100 bets as “dimes”. In that sense, the hotel nickeled and dimed us.”

I kept wondering where the people who worked in this hotel lived as the bus tours took us only through streets of exquisitely appointed Edwardian mansions. I did glimpse some apartment houses in the distance and hoped for their sakes there were supermarkets, reasonably priced malls, and other amenities (even physicians) to provide for their needs. They all smiled so while they wandered about the hotel, ever eager to help Jim and I (though one person did remind us that the people at the bar no longer had their tips included automatically in the bill — naturally she wanted to make more than $2.13 per hour).

As so often the slave cabins in US plantations now set up for tourists are torn down, so the places where servants must’ve gathered water in mid-century were no longer there (this photo comes from Pamela Horn’s study of the Victorian servant).

We could have done wine tasting and visited an artifcial village and shopping center on the other side of the huge estate; but as it promised to be much hype and was basically a place for the family to make money, we skipped it.

We got back in time to have a light supper with a friend at one of the many bars in the inn. Very pleasant.

Although blurred I show this image as it is from the production we viewed: the dancer has her arms arched to pump them up and down like a rooster

At 8 o’clock went with a group of people to a screening room where Gloria Eive and Colby Kullman played excerpts from a DVD of a production at the Paris Opera house of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes: Gloria and Colby discussed the music and (reactionary) meanings of the opera, and then we saw how in the Euro-trash version these were both delightfully parodied and rendered absurd (as when lead dancers imitated the gestures of chickens, hens, roosters) while wearing the extravagant costumes that are intended to make people numinous figures.

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)

Our long day was done and we returned to our room to read, have some white Riesling wine together, talk and then sleep.

White Riesling

For my third report, see South Central ASECS: Women Writers, poets & actresses and myths.


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Chawton Cottage, Hampshire

Dear friends and readers,

Jane Austen’s first letter from Chawton. To Frank Austen. Who else? Gleeful verses reassuring him “how much we find/Already in it, to our mind.” “It will all other houses beat/That ever have been made or mended,/With rooms concise, or rooms distended …” Portrait of Frank as a boy, shared childhood. Martha now gone, a 2 year intense writing-revision. She girds her loins and makes two texts publishable (I suggest she works on Elinor and Marianne [? or S&S] and begins thinking about what to do with First Impressions), and shall pay for it herself (!). A vanity press author! this suggests how unfair such characterizations have ever been. 2 year silence in extant correspondence on her part ensues.


This letter occupies a couple of firsts: the first extant to Frank, the first extant from Chawton; it’s the second one in verse, the other also about Frank (Frank made Austen’s heart sing) and commemorating a move (to Southampton, the first dream of a stable home since Steventon, Letter 48). We do not have a surviving letter since April (4 months) and the desolation of Crosby’s bullying intimidation and assertion of ownership of Austen’s creation (for 10 pounds); only this resurgence of “Joy.”

My dearest Frank, I wish you Joy
Of Mary’s safety with a Boy,
Whose birth has given little pain
Compared with that of Mary Jane.-
May he a growing Blessing prove,
And well deserve his Parents’ Love! –
Endow’d with Art’s & Nature’s Good,
Thy name possessing with thy Blood,
In him, in all his ways, may we
Another Francis William see!-
Thy infant days may he inherit,
Thy warmth, nay insolence of spirit;­
We would not with one fault dispense
To weaken the resemblance.
May he revive thy Nursery sin,
Peeping as daringly within,
His curley Locks but just descried,
With “Bet, my be not come to bide.” —

Fearless of danger, braving pain,
And threaten’d very oft in vain,
Still may one Terror daunt his Soul,
One needful engine of Controul
Be found in this sublime array,
A neighbouring Donkey’s aweful Bray.
So may his equal faults as Child,
Produce Maturity as mild!
His saucy words & fiery ways
In early Childhood’s pettish days,
In Manhood, shew his Father’s mind
Like him, considerate & kind;
All Gentleness to those around,
And eager only not to wound.
Then like his Father too, he must,
To his own former struggles just,
Feels [sic] his Deserts with honest Glow;
And all his self-improvement know.­
A native fault may thus give birth
To the best blessing, conscious Worth.-

As for ourselves we’re very well;
As unaffected prose will tell.
Cassandra’s pen will paint our state,
The many comforts that await
Our Chawton home, how much we find
Already in it, to our mind;
And how convinced, that when complete
It will all other Houses beat
That ever have been made or mended,
With rooms concise, or rooms distended.
You’ll find us very snug next year,
Perhaps with Charles & Fanny near,
For now it often does delight us
To fancy them just over-right us.-

Cape Austen RN. 26th July

Having gone through the letters we are now in a position to see ihis is a letter of reassurance. We have seen that perhaps he was against the move to Chawton (Letter 61). Now this letter is intended to tell him that Chawton is all Jane dreamed of and Frank was wrong to worry. We do not know what his objections were, but we saw they were strong enough for him to hurry out suddenly with a surprise visit to Cassandra, to catch her unawares (Letter 61). In vain, for Jane told and Cassandra would want the move: the economics of the thing decided it. We are not permitted to know what were Frank’s objections

We do know that Frank and Jane were the close ones: she waits twice a day, goes to the post office perhaps to get a letter. To him alone were left three packets of letters which he kept near him until he died. I do not mean to omit Martha (Honan called his section on the Southampton home: Frank and Martha).

Everything about the poem projects its central mood and tenet: they are there, now that it’s

Our Chawton home, how much we find
Already in it, to our mind;
And how convinced, that when complete
It will all other Houses beat
That ever have been made or mended,
With rooms concise, or rooms distended.
You’ll find us very snug next year

It’s fine 8 beat couplet verse. I see running through the last paragraph imagery from writing — and for Cassandra drawing. Cassandra’s pen will paint their “many comforts.” Already “in it to our mind” they find all that they want and need. “Rooms concise or rooms extended” is language allusive of manuscripts. Before her are manuscripts with their rooms concise and extended too.


From 2007 Granada Northanger Abbey (Andrew Davies): Catherine talks to her brothers and sisters at bedtime

This week’s letter has been written about numerous times, usually
focusing on Frank’s life: his personality, his son, his childhood. Austen even remembers a snatch of her brother’s baby talk and Hampshire accent: “Bet, my be not come to bide.” Austen hopes Frank’s son will be such another as he was and has become; she is recalling an occasion when Frank stood at the nursery door and explained himself to the nurse.

She remembers his stubbornness, determination. He was called “Fly.” At age 7 he bought his own horse (with father’s help), a pony for £1.11s.6d and after two years sold it for £2.12s.6d. A bright chestnut, he called it “Squirrel” and his brother “Scrug.”

A good deal of what we know about Frank as a boy and until the time he went into the navy, is contained in this poem. Turn to the biographers and you see they are relying on these verses. It’s also here and some hints in the earlier letters that we know Frank’s wife had an appalling time giving birth to the daughter.

It’s a lively realistic memories of a real noisy, stubborn, difficult child (“his saucy words & fiery ways”).

It’s apparently self-effacing until the last paragraph. It is by Jane, her throughout, her love for Frank, her voice, her stance, her place in his life and hope for one of her own now that she can control.


This is said to be the desk Austen wrote upon in the Chawton parlour

We are at a turning point: there will be no more letters for 21 months, at which time we will hear of proofs of Sense and Sensibilityy (her own “suckling child”). The letter to Crosby is our evidence that as she thought about Chawton and moving there became close she saw an opportunity at long last to sit quietly, revise and make a hard effort to publish. It was in his biographical notice to her two posthumous novels, Northanger and Persuasion, Henry told that story, and I’ll save it for next time as the next letter is closer to the outward negotiating events of what she did; this time we are to think of the plunge into writing.

Now in July 1809 Martha has vanished, gone. She left now and again in the years from the time she moved in until Chawton, but not for good. When they went on holiday (Worthing) she was there. Visiting she was there. It may go against the grain in our sentimental times but I wonder how much Martha’s leaving had to do with Jane’s ability and determination to do as little as possible in the social world to enable herself to write intensely – which she had to do for these coming years. She was perhaps also more efficient as it was a matter of revision not creation of narratives and fair copies in the first place.

Lots of people like — whether it be a heterosexual relationship or a homoerotic/lesbian one — to insist that the human relationship counts more and trumps the person’s relationship with their art. So we get how Miss Austen Regrets is shaped to flatter the view Austen was so ambivalent and torn and nagged by her family not to give her life up to writing. But in fact maybe it was a good thing Martha deserted. It freed Jane — the way when a marriage breaks up a person can be freed. Austen’s letter to the Bullers (for one example, Letter 25) says she prefers the sea to friends or relatives; she didn’t prefer her fictional world to Martha. A good deal of the vexed tones of the last Southampton letters come from Martha’s behavior and plans to go; but as Martha was off, and Frank gone too, she had herself and her fictional world to invest emotionally in. Cassandra stands by as the person who lives with one so closely (or often afar as she is ever visiting and getting away) that we can ignore them.

See Jane Austen’s Letters archive


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The 2nd volume is shorter than I cd wish — but the difference is not so much in reality as in look, there being a larger proportion of Narrative in that Part. (Austen, 29 January 1813)

An attempt to present the manuscripts consistently to be read as works in their own right to a popular audience

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve been asked to review a volume called The Later Manuscripts in the series called The Cambridge Edition of Jane Austen, this one edited by Janet Todd and Linda Bree, and it has set me thinking, returning to my project on Austen’s calendars where I tried to reach her work in ways so fundamental that I would enter her process of writing itself.

The first aspect of this is to try to decide when a particular text was written and how valuable it is. You cannot avoid this, and if you try, you end up with a book that doesn’t make much sense. The problem is the evidence is so contradictory, even for the Juvenilia where we have dated fair copies in Austen’s hand copied into books by 1793 and then revised a little and annotated at a much later time than they were originally written (25 years). One problem is they are over-framed by Cassandra who for example took Volume I dedicated to Martha, and wrote on the first page it was for Frank; or the two dedicated to Eliza de Feuillide (the last name dates the inscription) and wrote this was for Charles.

Despite concerted efforts too, these are not popular works — or publishers don’t believe they would be and the editions of all of them in partial and different configurations are still not that uncommon. Books of criticism on them fall out of print too. As to studying Austen’s revision technique, the ones that tells a lot are the ones with corrections (foul copies): The Watsons, Sanditon, the cancelled chapters of Persuasion.

Unpublished writing includes her letters. I’d exempt NA and Persuasion even if not published by her, as they are so clearly written for publication and were published almost immediately after her death — though there too we have the problem of the title. Titles tell a lot and if these were not the titles Austen would really have chosen, they mis-frame the book. There is no reason to call The Watsons The Watsons; family tradition had it as The Younger Sister (Austen was a younger sister), Sanditon is similarly said to have been meant to become The Brothers. Lady Susan remained (resolutely?) untitled.

That Austen was immanent, not a planner is a central point made by Sutherland (and others before) to be kept in mind.


A rare attempt to study the revisions thoroughly and bring together the last writing Austen left unpublished, ms’s where the writing resembles one another

Another question: how are we to understand the survival of the two cancelled chapters of Persuasion.

There were three large manuscripts in 1799 — First Impressions, Elinor and Marianne (or Sense and Sensibility) and Susan (?). There were also manuscripts of the juvenilia which include Catherine or the Bower.

All that survives are fair copies of the Juvenilia in three volumes, copied out by 1793 and added to and revised slightly many years later; there is writing in it from 1811 and (by JEAL) 1817. There is the “foul” copy of a remarkably frank, bleak novel very much reflecting the milieus Austen was experiencing in Bath and her father had experienced as a boy (now called The Watsons but a tradition has it it was The Younger Sister). A worked on copy suddenly given up and not copied out into a fair copy but not destroyed; it cannot have been written before 1803 as that is the watermark of the paper and was probably set aside 1805-7. A fully detailed and worked out story, almost as full in implication as Persuasion. There is a fair copy of an untitled epistolary novel (Lady Susan) of the type we have for Juvenilia, but by a mature hand. 1805-9. It reminds me of how Renaissance women sometimes copied out their letters and life-writing as pretend books. They could not publish them so they did the next best thing; they made a private book that they could circulate among a small group of people and this untitled epistolary novel did so circulate. There is another worked on draft that feels like wild as if it were a first time through, but it has chapter divisions and careful study shows it must have been revised while she went along (little by little, sticking in new cut out papers and discarding previous using pins to do this; and this ms is dated, Jan through March 1817.

And these cancelled chapters — foul papers.

Ms’s of poems, of Sir Charles Grandison (attribution questioned), of two prayers (attribution questioned) and various letters.

We should not forget that NA & Persuasion were not published in JA’s lifetime. She put NA on the shelf as not satisfactory and Persuasion is unfinished, a truncated hastily ended book. I believe she was sick by the time she started it and knew it — had a deep hunch about this illness even if this only came to the surface around the time of Henry’s bankruptcy. But since they exist only in published copies and were published so soon after, we have to go with tradition. Their anomalous state though is indicative and common in womens’ writing.

An online digital edition of Austen’s manuscripts, all but Chapter 11 (alas, a real loss from the cancelled chapters) are printed in facsimile and then typed out — this shows what may be done when the money-making profit motive is excluded

The question that puzzles me is what happened to the fair copies of the first three: FI which Cassandra and Martha had by heart; if E&M was revised into S&S from the letter to Crosby I do find that each time a fair copy would be made. Why throw out the original? She had a foul copy of Susan when she wrote to Crosby and was prepared to make another fair one.

Is it that people really didn’t value these things? I know any copy in the later 17th and early 18th century that went to a printer was usually destroyed in the process, but about a hundred years later Trollope saved the foul copies and fair copies of several of his novels. We are going to have another Duke’s Children, more than a 1/4 more long because Trollope saved the original Duke’s Children. We have a whole The Way We Live Nwo and (even if others ignore it) it tells a tale expected to me: of revision, of uses of a calendar, of a only partly planned novel: he was partly immanent in the way of Austen. Tradition has it Rose, his wife, prepared the fair copies but we do not know that by anyhing either of them said or wrote down. We assume it from hearsay.

Is it that in revising the three Steventon (P&P, S&S, NA) novels, Austen so used up the writing in the fair copies re-arranged, crossed-out, changed, and then sent a fair copy just to the printer so had nothing left? would she have trusted to that?

I do think the way Austen’s ms’s are printed shows we don’t value them much either as they are scattered with cancelled chapters of Persuasion going with Persuasion (and no diplomatic transcript).

*Really one should have one or two volumes of the unpublished papers put in a conjectured chronological order. That is what Cambridge should have had the courage to do.*

I value ms’s from my studies of the Renaissance and Anne Finch: before the later 17th century much that is studied was unpublished and the reality is that when publication started again and women were left out, it was a deliberate choice by 20th century scholars as neither Mary Lady Wroth or Donne were published in their lifetimes.

Also from my studies of women’s life writings and poetry I know how much is destroyed before it’s put into print and how precious it can be to see the ms’s, how much really can be gleaned if you have corrections, torn pages, watermarks or simply a huge books (Elizabeth Grant Smith as Highland Lady is only now seen to be the masterpiece it is). Actress’s memoirs come in here — though from what I gather ms’s didn’t survive; what was written really was meant to be published as opposed to Renaissance and 17th century women who could revel in non-publishing. That is not gone. Burney would not have begun to write what she did had she thought her journals would be published for sure or in her lifetime. Ditto Boswell.

I couldn’t find anyone to give me citations of essays on Scott’s way of saving ms’s — but then maybe he hired amanuenses to keep copies of the stages of his creations. It gets me that questions one really might want to know for real as so basic to literary creation are often not written about. (Finally one person answered; see comments.)


If we exclude Persuasion, the best edition of the mature unfinished novels we have

Last for tonight: the question of the actual shape of Austen’s texts as she conceived them.

From my study of Trollope I know this matters, an established author like Trollope could and did insist the shape he intended for his novels be observed by his publishers for the first editions. After that he gave up. He knew it was hopeless; that’s one reason why he took a fee outright and didn’t try to keep his copyrights to make more money later. He just commanded as large a fee as he could wrest, and then after seeing through the first edition (with its illustrations) really did dismiss the forms his novels appeared in from his mind. He understood he had yielded control.

Since the purpose of printing Austen’s novels from the publisher’s point of view was to make money from them, and the price of such books in this period rather high (something like 5 to 8 shillings a volume), the publishers early on wanted 3 to 5 volume books. The formula which made Mudie’s so rich and thus its authors, was the renting of 3 volume sets for a couple of years before the cheap one volume editions came out.

Marilyn Butler in what I think is a poorly thought out address to the British Jane Austen Society brings up this issue and comes up with divisions she says Austen meant for which she has no proof, but worse yet (as there is no criticism from Austen discussing this except in the case of P&P — see below) is impressionistic; however, her address is useful because she brings up the issue.

How do the novels as we see them relate to underlying structures in the books. Did Austen have a 2 volume design in mind or a 3 volume one? With no evidence, Butler has Austen as lady-like wanting a 2 volume structure (she is ever determined to present Austen as elite and obeying whatever conventions Butler sees) and not caring about the money. We know from Austen’s letters in Bath, she cared about money intensely; she may not have been the businesswoman Jan Fergus imagines (Her letter to Crosby is not well thought out and by being so abrupt and open she leaves him the opportunity to bite back – she has not learned negotiation means obfuscation.) But she wanted to make money from her books if she could. On the other hand, as an immanent writer, she did let them become themselves. My sense is she had both divisions in mind: two volumes with two parts (the way Inchbald’s novels work) or three as that was a growing convention (you see this in Romance of the Forest) with Austen showing her awareness of his when she makes fun of the 276 page volume (and many were, the Romance of the Forest in the 1797 edition is 276 pages for the first volume).

I went over the divisions as I think this too is way to try to reach the novels before publication. The thinking here is akin to what I did for my calendars: geologizing I call it.

An imaginary (imagined) First Impressions (Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet filmed reading it, from the opening of Wright’s 2005 P&P, unusual witty moment)

This is what I came up with: What Austen published:


If you divided Sense and Sensibility into 2 volumes, the second at Chapter 25, would begin with Elinor and Marianne with Mrs Jennings on their way to London. Nevertheless, I’ve thought that the present volume 1 ending with Elinor’s great shock at Lucy’s revelation and Volume 2 ending with Lucy’s triumphant invitation to stay with Fanny and John Dashwood and opening with the revelation of the engagement is the right turn — are correct (so to speak). I like both, both seem shapely, and could be codas in the films.


We have it in a letter Austen was dissatisfied w/the divisions of P&P as printed (after she lopped and chopped remember so she had ruined her own desig)n. She writes “The 2nd volume is shorter than I cd wish — but the difference is not so much in reality as in look, there being a larger proportion of Narrative in that Part” (letter 29 January 1813) I’ve always thought that the third volume begins at the right spot: Elizabeth on her way in the carriage to Pemberley with Mr and Mrs Gardiner, Chapter 43.

Remarkable numbers of symmetries in this book. A thoroughly worked up book and has lost little of its original richness, just the ironies of juxtaposition (I use just ironically here).

Now the present P&P is 61 chapters but noticeably the opening chapters are often very short — that’s where she cut, my calendar shows talk of more balls, assemblies, meetings and I assume there might have been a scene or scenes between Jane and Bingley excised. But volume 2 begins at present at Chapter 24. So we have 23 chapters for Vol 1, 19 chapters for Volume 3, leaving 18 for Volume 2. It is the shortest as to chapters. Volume 1 also ends with Mr Bennet choosing Elizabeth’s side, with Volume 2 opening with letter from Caroline showing Mr Bingley will not be back and then moving on to Charlotte’s betrayal (a strong word I know but arguably it may be used, Charlotte betrays herself as well as Elizabeth to secure a house, food, the independence one gets as a wife)

Davies follows the three volume division of Austen in his breaks in his 1995 adaptation.


MP (also rich awareness of social world and goes beyond the immediate and seen) and Emma (ditto though it does not go beyond immediate and seen) virtuoso performances. So how does their present division into 3 stand up?

Butler argues that MP intended to be 2 volumes, the first ending with Maria’s wedding, so Chapter 21 ends Volume I; but that makes top heavy Volume 2 (of 25 chapters), and using 18 as the end of Volume I gives us the climactic coming of Sir thomas and break-up of the play; the present opening of Volume 3 doesn’t make a lot of sense as it’s in the midst of Mr Crawford’s courtship, Chapter 32 though it must be admitted then Volume 2 ends on Mary Crawford’s note to Fanny to take Henry seriously and welcome to Fanny as a sister-in-law. Half way simply done would be 24 and that makes sense too as it ends on Wm being promoted and the beginning of a new phase of existence at Northamptonshire with Fanny and Sir Thomas as guiding spirits. I rather think the book may be divided many ways as it’s so strong in its phases.

There are subdivisions, as the sequence at Sotherton, the sequence about the play, and at the end the semi-epistolary novel.


Emma is a 3 volume book as we now have it. Unlike MP the divisions don’t work that well; not that they don’t work at all (as they don’t in Persuasion) but that the codas of the book lie elsewhere: I’d say with Mr Knightley and the chapters where we don’t see Emma (I:5, Mr Knightely and Mrs Weston talk) and where Mr Knightley is looking at Jane and Frank (III:5, the alphabet game — precisely parallel spot in volumes). (The film adaptations are all over the place where to divide and inventing a back story as Welch’s 2009 film or a harvest festival the way Davies does doesn’t help.)

Present Vol 1 Chapter 18 ends with Knightley and Emma’s clash over
Frank Churchill but he has not yet arrived; the real ending of this volume is 17 when Emma goes to tell Harriet that Mr Elton loves her, the Knightley brother and sister (John and Isabella) and Mr Elton all leave but then the point of chapter 17 is that Frank did not come. Volume 2 presently ends with Chapter 36, with news of Frank Churchill’s return and amused dialogue of Mr Knightley and Emma where Emma demands to know what exactly has her dissipation been. I do not doubt the division here is just like Henry’s of NA; Jane or the publisher divided the manuscript into 3 equal parts, 18, 35 with the conclusion Chapter 61.

Instead divisions can be made with seasonal calendar and punctuated high points (Tuesdays at work here). Davies’s idea does cohere with seasonal calendar in the book. Book has back story told by narrator: I:2 the history of the Churchills; 3:2, opening poignant romance of Fairfax family [very like Chapter 4 of Persuasion, the poignant story of the failed engagement of Francis Wentworth and Anne Elliot). This reminds me of the way Anna Austen Lefroy wrote out an unattached history of Clara Brereton for Sanditon. Maybe she saw Austen’s manuscripts in stages where these separated back stories were still not woven (pinned?) in.

Posthumous books:

If you divided Northanger Abbey into three equal parts, it would make more sense: Vol 1, chs-10. Chapter 11 has Catherine getting seriously involved and stood up by Thorpes and slowly choosing Tilneys, at the end of which the climax is Isabella’s gross behavior at the assembly ball; Ch 20, begins the trip to Northanger. The present arrangement has several chapters in Bath hanging on as an afterthought when a new volume begins and Northanger visit starts at Chapter 20.

Persuasion as presently divided doesn’t make sense either. This suggests how unfinished it is. The present text is 24 chapters and half way is 12. Henry did the simplest thing: divided it in 2. But 12 is the middle of Anne’s time at Upper Cross — though against that it is the moment that Captain Wentworth returns to Lyme. Chapter 9 (after Anne’s tremendous anxiety, the first meeting of 8, the heart break of his coldness) of Wentworth come to stay, and 16 and 17 are simply in the middle of the Bath time. That there is no good division into a shapely narrative is due to its originally planned for 3 and the size of S&S or P&P.

Much more sense of Bath as a general place from adult point of view in Persuasion. NA reveals some of its narrow child-like origins — though because of revisions must be seen as a novel in-between Emma and Persuasion, and its use of irony with suspense reminds me of Emma. Persuasion as rapid intensity of spirit going out (dying to be precise) connects to Sanditon

The evidence of the ms’s that we do have for the later novels:

There is no division in the hard-worked thoroughly detailed The Watsons, yet the impulsive draft (not a first draft I now think but not worked out in the detail of The Watsons), she is dividing into chapters as she goes. So too the foul papers type draft of the cancelled chapters of Persuasion. So there was no consistency.

The fair copies of Love and Freindship and Lady Susan don’t help us here as they are epistolary and epistolary novels when not just chunks of 1st person narratives cut up have to have beginnings and ends in order to interact with the other letters ironically and as to time.


The best edition of the Juvenilia, and first attempt at serious (grave realistic) writing by Austen (Catherine, or the Bower)

If authors could, they would control the shaping of their books in the last phases of revision and presentation to the editor and/or publisher. I am trying to get beneath or beyond the printed phases which fit publisher’s needs for profits (so much a volume for example) to what the author intended or wrote at any rate. I am trying to understand what the manuscripts were.


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Claude Gellée, dit le Lorrain (1600-82), Landscape with Psyche, better known as The Enchanted Castle (1664) — it’s not really enchanted but forbidding

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve been back from the South Central ASECS at Asheville, North Carolina for two weeks now and not yet begun posting on the good time I had there. It was a holiday. The South Central 18th century people run their conference as partly a mild kind of party. One night there was a wonderful lecture on Irish music across the 18th century; another a celtic band and drinking and dancing to it; a banquet on yet a third; a fourth we watched an opera on DVD (a Rameau from the Paris opera-house). During the day one afternoon we went to the Biltmore Mansion built by the super-rich Vanderbilts, a US equivalent of Downton Abbey and the popularity of this enormous mansion with its rooms for display, servants quarters in the attics and servants’ workrooms and gyms for the rich in the basement told us it mirrored the values of US society today as much as it did then. I have much to report about the papers too.

But this evening as a preliminary I thought I’d put my paper online to make it available generally with its scholarly notes. As presently written it’s too sketchy for publication in an academic journal but I hope to work further on this topic where my ultimte aim is to change the views people have of Ann Radcliffe. Yes I see her as a Girondist, and think we should see the 1794 A Journey Made in the Summer and Mysteries of Udolpho as part of the English Jacobin movement. These ought to be read alongside other 1794 books: Elizabeth Inchbald’s Nature and Art, Wm Godwin’s Things as They Are; or The Adventures of Caleb Williams, not to omit the 1792 Thomas Holcroft’s Anne St Ives, Charlotte Smith’s Desmond. I could keep citing books but this will do.

The topic of the conference was “Panoramas and Vistas” in the 18th century and here is my contribution:

The Nightmare of History in Ann Radcliffe’s Landscapes.

John Crome (1768-1821), Yarmouth Harbour, Evening (circa 1817)

For the two blogs about the papers I heard at the conference and more details about Asheville, North Carolina and some of the really pleasurable events and socializing we did:

South Central ASECS Asheville: Panoramas (gothic, animals in, the Biltmore), Scottish fiddling, Rameau and Jane

South Central ASECS Asheville: Women writers, actresses, and landscapes.

See also Ann Radcliffe’s Landscapes: Christa Wolf (No Place on Earth) and the Seige of Mainz


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Photo of ms autograph copy of Crosby’s letter

Dear friends and readers,

This is an astonishing pair of letters. Think a bit about what we’ve seen in these letters acknowledged of Austen’s writing thus far. There are but 2 firm references to Austen’s written novels thus far: to Cassandra and about Martha having read an apparently fair copy of First Impressions so many times she must have it by heart; but even here Austen does not make it explicit the book is hers (Letters 17 & 21).

There has now been a gap of 4 months (see letter 67) and after this pair 3 months (letter 70). There is no reason to believe Jane went silent. She and Cassandra were apart and writing every 3-4 days. I suggest she was hatching this and other plans to write and wrote in reaction to Crosby’s ugly reply. These letters have been destroyed: both whatever were her words of plans and whatever her words of dismay and rage. I suggest she had finally seen at Chawton they would have so few visitors she need worry about, have so little status and means to entertain you see; and that she would at long last have space, stability (this was going to be it, Edward meant it and the house was theirs for as long as they wanted and needed it — and Jane had no intention of marrying, or seeking a spouse, Hannah More’s novel in search of a spouse notwithstanding), time.

So we get this sudden bold thrust into a public arena. Alas, this letter also shows Austen’s utter powerlessness, lack of any connection to anyone in publishing, any handle of any kind. She had not had the boldness or nerve herself to negotiate with the publisher and perhaps now she is thinking the better of that. If you want your your business done, do it yourself as you are really the only one who really cares in the least.

Wednesday 5 April 1809 68(D). To B. Crosby &.. Co.


In the Spring of the year 1803 a MS. Novel in 2 vol. entitled Susan
was sold to you by a Gentleman of the name of Seymour, 1 & the
purchase money £10. reed at the same time. Six years have since
passed, & this work of which I avow myself the Authoress, has never to the best of my knowledge, appeared in print, tho’ an early publication was stipulated for at the time of Sale. I can only account for such an extraordinary circumstance by supposing the MS by some carelessness to have been lost; & if that was the case, am willing to supply You with another Copy if you are disposed to avail Yourselves of it, & will engage for no farther delay when it comes into Your hands. — It will not be in my power from particular circumstances to command this Copy before the Month of August, but then, if you accept my proposal, you may depend on receiving it. Be so good as to send me a Line in answer, as soon as possible, as my stay in this place will not exceed a few days. Should no notice be taken of this Address, I shall feel myself at liberty to secure the publication of my work, by applying elsewhere. I am Gentlemen &c &c

Two days later (prompt enough):

Direct to Mrs Ashton Dennis Post office, Southampton
[Messrs. Crosbie [sic] & Co., Stationers’ Hall Court London]


We have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 5th inst.
It is true that at the time mentioned we purchased of Mr Seymour a MS. novel entitled Susan and paid him for it the sum of 10£ for which we have his stamped receipt as a full consideration, but there was not any time stipulated for its publication, neither are we bound to publish it, Should you or anyone else [sic] we shall take proceedings to stop the sale. The MS. shall be yours for the same as we paid for it.

London Ap 81809
~ Dennis Post Office Southampton.
For B. Crosby & Co I am yours etc.
Richard Crosby

Diane R says the publisher went down in history in infamy. I wish this were so. I’m not sure anyone really remembers Cosby’s name. All the more reason to put this pair of letters complete into my blog.

I don’t agree with that Jane Austen’s letter is stiff and formal. It is quivering with emotion, electric with desire. The language is plain and direct, simple. I’m reminded of Catherine Morland’s common on how she’s not clever enough to be unintelligible — write mandarin prose. Stiff and formal for the era is “Miss Austen asks that … ” No “I”, complex passive constructions. There’s nothing like that here. In comparison one should read some of the letters the women playwrights wrote to the managers who rejected them in Ellen Donkins’s Getting into the Act (women playwrights of the 18th century). Muted complex sentences, back treading, distant qualifications, covering themselves. Nothing like that here. The closest thing is Charlotte Smith who was hand-in-glove with her publishers while she fought, and the acid Inchbald who nonetheless offers linguistical complexity as her guard.

I agree to obtuse ears it might seem even unemotional, but we don’t have to be very subtle elves to see the need crackling beneath the surface, and the anger in the first two sentences and again in the signature.

The lines of argument is nervously bold: “I will feel myself at liberty to secure the publication of my work, by applying elsewhere …”

Note too most of the sentences are her offering to produce a new ms in 4 months. Note the urgency of “Be so good as to send me a Line in answer, as soon as possible, as my stay in this place will not exceed a few days …. ” Dear good sir, please.

From Austen’s words I take it she did send fair copies to the publishers; not working drafts: “It will not be in my power from particular circumstances to command this Copy before the Month of August, but then, if you accept my proposal, you may depend on receiving it….”

How and what did she got, one of these polite controlled snarls. The bully saw through her. I’ve had such myself, what a kick people get out of this kind of thing when they do it in interviews or if you are so hardy or foolish to phone afterward. But most of us are not MAD enough. Remember she’s been seriously writing since around 1791 – the time of Love and Freindship which is no short inconsequential work.

But MAD also means mad-woman; she is so acutely aware of how
mortifying this is, how she will be seen as crazy. No one in her circle really respected a woman who wanted to publish. She is suddenly determined to try to publish one of her books, the second one she had prepared for publication — the first had been First Impressions in November 1796, rejected by return of post. Perhaps the Bath setting, the gothic element she thought would draw people, and it was shorter than First Impressions (said by Mr Austen to be about the length of Burney’s Evelina). It is hers (oh boy is it hers), and what does she get in return: a brutal arrogant cold threat.

Now think about how she must have felt getting this. Consider for
example that it wasn’t until the end of 1815 that she applied again,
this time not herself (too painful) but again through Henry and Frank. They went together as I recall.

It took another 6 years and four novel successes before she dared try to wrest her treasure from this (stupid) man who had all the laws of private property and masculinist convention on his side. He bought it, he paid for it, it’s his. In November 1815 she applied again, this time not herself (too painful and/or grating) but through Henry. James-Edward Austen-Leigh tells us it was only after Henry bought the rights to the book back he told Crosby its so “lightly esteemed” author was the author of Pride and Prejudice.” It took another 6 years and four novel successes before she dared try to wrest her treasure from this (stupid) man who had all the laws of private property and masculinist convention on his side. He bought it, he paid for it, it’s his.

What circle of Dante’s hell should one put him in. The book to consult is La Comedia. I contend the quivering feeling is out there for us to see — that style of hers is why she is a great novelist. She writes directly. I agree with Diane R that this is a kind of Kafka world – it has ever been a Kafka world – but Austen has no Kafka to spell it out, unless we were to consider some of the gothic situations in novels and memoirs.


Recent Oxford edition printed Northanger Abbey with three other of Austen’s posthumously published novels

I found a two page article on this exchange by Arthur M Axelrod, Persuasions, 16 (1994):36-38. Axelrod considers Austen’s tone “uncharacteristically blunt and humorless.” He describes Crosy’s reply as “arrogant” and written with “intimidating forcefulness” as he has the law on his side. He was ready for threat for threat. (Curious, why did he give a shit? had he hated this book? resented it?)

It’s a palimpsest; there’s a draft underneath the copy which is in print. He has seen a written out under-version using fibre-optic light cable and ultra violet light (abetted by leaps of faith — I did this for my Anne Finch studies). It seems the one underneath is the same except the phrases are scattered … she’s testing them.

This first version is not signed “MAD” which Axelrod finds silly. I suppose a business letter to his mind is solemn all the time. However, to sign it “J. Austen” is actually better. The earlier version has an open statement of true identity.

There have been arguments whether this is autograph. The technology study has made it firm it is in Austen’s handwriting.

Catherine’s first sight of the Abbey (2007 BBC Northanger Abbey)

See archive for Jane Austen’s Letters.


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