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Having just made a big move myself, I was intrigued by the thought that Jane Austen herself—not to mention several of her characters—knew what it took to move an entire household from one place to another.

One of the best resources available to us regarding a big move is the letter Austen wrote to Cassandra on January 3, 1801, prior to their family’s move to Bath from Steventon. From it, and from the details in her novels, we learn many interesting details about what a big move entailed.

If you’ve ever wanted some Regency advice on moving house, this is for you!

Image of Steventon Rectory, Wikimedia Commons
Steventon Rectory, Wikimedia Commons

Send Your Servants Ahead

In terms of logistics, members of the genteel class usually sent servants ahead of them when they went from one house to another, as we see when Mr. Bingley goes to Netherfield:

Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.

Pride and Prejudice

Similarly, Elinor and Marianne, when arriving in London with Mrs. Jennings after three days of travel, are greeted by “all the luxury of a good fire.” The house is “handsome, and handsomely fitted up.” Elinor writes to her mother before a dinner that will not “be ready in less than two hours from their arrival.” It’s clear that Mrs. Jennings employs servants who clean, cook, shop, and prepare the house for her visits.

Hire Good People

When preparing to move to Bath, Jane Austen’s mother wanted to keep two maids: “My mother looks forward with as much certainty as you can do to our keeping two maids; my father is the only one not in the secret.”

With her typical flair for humor, Austen hoped to engage other servants as well: “We plan having a steady cook and a young, giddy housemaid, with a sedate, middle-aged man, who is to undertake the double office of husband to the former and sweetheart to the latter. No children, of course, to be allowed on either side.”

Do Your Research

In Austen’s letter, she talks about several areas of Bath where they hoped to find a house: Westgate Buildings, Charles Street, and “some of the short streets leading from Laura Place or Pulteney Street.”

About Westgate Buildings, Austen wrote: “though quite in the lower part of the town, are not badly situated themselves. The street is broad, and has rather a good appearance.” Regarding Charles Street, she thought it “preferable”: “The buildings are new, and its nearness to Kingsmead Fields would be a pleasant circumstance.” And concerning the third area: “The houses in the streets near Laura Place I should expect to be above our price. Gay Street would be too high, except only the lower house on the left-hand side as you ascend.”

4 Syndey Place, Bath

Mrs. Austen seemed to have a preference: “her wishes are at present fixed on the corner house in Chapel Row, which opens into Prince’s Street. Her knowledge of it, however, is confined only to the outside, and therefore she is equally uncertain of its being really desirable as of its being to be had.”

None of the Austens were in favor of Oxford Buildings: “we all unite in particular dislike of that part of the town, and therefore hope to escape.”

Bring Your Art

We know from Austen’s letter that they planned to take the following pictures and paintings from Steventon to Bath: “[T]he battle-piece, Mr. Nibbs, Sir William East, and all the old heterogeneous miscellany, manuscript, Scriptural pieces dispersed over the house, are to be given to James.”

Good artwork is hard to find.

Of special note, Jane tells Cassandra, “Your own drawings will not cease to be your own, and the two paintings on tin will be at your disposal.”

Good Furniture is Worth Moving

Apparently, Rev. and Mrs. Austen had a very good bed that was irreplaceable: “My father and mother, wisely aware of the difficulty of finding in all Bath such a bed as their own, have resolved on taking it with them…” Austen wrote this about the rest of the household beds: “all the beds, indeed, that we shall want are to be removed — viz., besides theirs, our own two, the best for a spare one, and two for servants; and these necessary articles will probably be the only material ones that it would answer to send down.”

When it came to their dressers, they decided it was time for an upgrade: “I do not think it will be worth while to remove any of our chests of drawers; we shall be able to get some of a much more commodious sort, made of deal, and painted to look very neat…”

Image of dining room at the Jane Austen House Museum
Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton.

As to the rest of their furniture, they decided it would be better to replace most of it in Bath: “We have thought at times of removing the sideboard, or a Pembroke table, or some other piece of furniture, but, upon the whole, it has ended in thinking that the trouble and risk of the removal would be more than the advantage of having them at a place where everything may be purchased. Pray send your opinion.”

Jane’s final comments to Cassandra are amusing as ever: “My mother bargains for having no trouble at all in furnishing our house in Bath, and I have engaged for your willingly undertaking to do it all.”

Visit People on the Way

In Austen’s letter, she explains their family travel plans: “[M]y mother and our two selves are to travel down together, and my father follow us afterwards in about a fortnight or three weeks. We have promised to spend a couple of days at Ibthorp in our way. We must all meet at Bath, you know, before we set out for the sea, and, everything considered, I think the first plan as good as any.”

Ibthorpe, Photo by Rachel Dodge

Not So Different

Moving house in Jane Austen’s day was not quite so different from today. Though the modes of transportation and the methods of research and communication were somewhat different, I was delighted to find that the Austens’ moving plans were surprisingly applicable to mine! (Except for the servants.)


RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Coming this fall: The Secret Garden Devotional. You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

Inquiring readers; Almost a week ago I attended an author’s gathering and book signing in Columbia, MD. The occasion was held at The King’s Contrivance Restaurant, a suitable setting for this lovely get together with Jane Porter and Denise Holcomb, who found the restaurant, invited guests, and kept tabs on RSVPs. I counted around 21 people. You might recognize Denise’s name, for she is a regular visitor to this blog and frequently leaves a comment.

masthead

Jane Porter’s masthead forjaneporter.com. Learn about this NY Times bestselling author’s accomplishments at this site.

I first thought this event was Jane Austen related. Jane Porter’s charming presence and the beauty of the location overcame my brief disappointment when I realized it was not. All the guests were authors, editors, or bloggers and book reviewers, so I was in good company. The event celebrated Jane’s recent release of her latest novel: Flirting With Fifty.

(Hover cursor over images for description.) I had only a short discussion with Ms Porter about her latest publication which deals with a late life romance for contemporary women. This book has been promoted by AARP, a membership organization for people 50 years and older. Her earlier novel in this series, Flirting With Forty, was turned into a successful cable movie. Our talk ranged over the dearth of novels of romance for women over a certain age and how her recent novels addressed the issue, and how women change in outlook and attitude as they mature. I agreed that there was a market and interest for women who had lived past their 20’s and 30’s and learned live’s lessons, both personally and career wise. Jane was gracious to spend a few minutes chatting with me, for there were others who wanted her attention.

denise

Denise Holcomb

I sat at a table with Denise and a friend of hers, who writes romance book reviews. We ordered our lunch. Mine was delicious, starting with a shellfish bisque, a main entree of fruit of the sea with shrimp, calamari and crabmeat, and ended with an English trifle. (I won’t describe the other choices :) When one lives in a mid-Atlantic state near the Chesapeake Bay, one must take advantage of the fresh seafood!}

After our delicious lunch (and a glass of pinot grigio in my case nursed over two hours), Jane Porter spoke to the group. She had already introduced the authors and the editor to her publishing house, Tule Publishing. Porter, among the many novels she has written and published, is also the founder & editorial director of Tule Publishing.

Whew! Where does she find the energy? She also plies homes between Sacramento, CA, and Hawaii, for her husband is a surfer. (Be still my romantic heart.)

menu

The menu with an edible orange and cardamon cookie

One thing I have learned attending Jane Austen related conferences and meetings, and Romance Writers Conferences of America is that getting one’s foot in the door as an author is an arduous ordeal. Once one is successfully published, the work of getting one’s book noticed through publicity and personal appearances starts. It’s a nonstop effort.

jane porter swag

Swag: Free book: Christmas Night; Pink Bag with ‘Read Jane;” “Flirting With Jane” signed book bought with substantial savings; Banana Bread Recipe; sticky note pad, round emery board, and at the top an orange cardamon “cookie” with a frosted image of Jane’s latest published book.

After lunch, Jane talked about her motivation as a writer, which began in her childhood when she wrote stories. Six-seven other authors discussed their passion for writing in various stages of their lives that compelled them to follow that arduous though satisfying road. None said it was easy (believe me, I know), but all sallied forth and found a home in Tule Publishing. 

I left so uplifted with the conversation afterwards and entered my car with gifts in hand. (I purchased Flirting With Fifty at an incredibly low price and had the book signed.) Leaving the meeting sated, I mused about the conversation on my way back over busy throughways and byways. When I arrived home, I realized that I had agreed to review one of my favorite new author’s books from Tule Publishing: Katherine Cowley’s The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception. My review of this mystery series based on the middle sister in the Bennet household — Mary — is scheduled for early September.

Small world.

 

Inquiring readers, Persuasion-lite is a cinematic reworking of Jane Austen’s final novel, finished before her death, but not published until afterward. Coming off the heels of Netflix’s highly successful Bridgerton (in this cast of Persuasion-lite you can surmise the former series’ influence) and the popularity of PBS’s Sanditon, the decision-makers behind Netflix productions gave the go ahead to a film that ‘modernized’ Austen’s book in order to introduce young audiences to Jane Austen. Or so the story goes. To do so, Chefs Moderne created a story-telling recipe to appeal to newcomers.

Persuasion’s traditional recipe: 

This rich, full-bodied classic was created by a Chef in her prime. Her finished recipe transfigured deceptively simple components into rich flavors heretofore undiscovered by the ordinary palate. The original ingredients, while considered old-fashioned today, are still accessible to epicureans who wish to savor the recipe’s nuanced complexity and its historical references. 

Time to digest: hours, with repeated enjoyment over a lifetime. Three Michelin stars were awarded to this Chef, who served distinct dishes that were executed to perfection. (Some might say she would have been awarded four stars had this rating system included such a category.)

Netflix’s Persuasion-lite recipe:

This adaptation took a traditional recipe and simplified it to its basic components, using only those ingredients readily accessible in any grocery store today. While it echoes the original, it pales in comparison and fails to plumb the classic’s rich depths. To be fair, there were hints of originality in the spices. This recipe has been rewritten in modern terms that defy belief.

Time to digest: One hour and 47 minutes. One may partake of repeated helpings at the Netflix buffet. A number of diners might find this meal delicious and insist on more helpings; a number will push half eaten plates away or not order the meal again. Sadly the Chefs Moderne who adapted the recipe were not awarded a single Michelin star, since their efforts resulted in a dish that leaves the diner hungry.

Primary Ingredients:

Anne Elliot 

The original recipe described a complex woman of 27 who has lost the bloom of youth. She regrets her decision at nineteen to reject Frederick Wentworth’s proposal due to Lady Russell’s persuasive influence. He had not yet made his mark in life. Anne is a woman of character and conviction who must negotiate the difficulties of living with a shallow father and sisters. As the neglected middle child, she lives largely in their selfish shadows, submitting to her family’s and friends’ needs. When Wentworth reenters her life unexpectedly, she observes her long lost love from afar. From his indifference he seems all but lost to her. Under the Classic Chef’s direction, Anne’s journey back to her Captain via circuitous routes is touching, romantic, and memorable. 

Persuasion-1024x587

Dakota Johnson sharing Anne Elliot’s thoughts. Netflix publicity photo.

The Netflix recipe describes Anne as an opinionated cheeky woman (Dakota Johnson) who gazes at and talks to the viewers (breaking the fourth wall) while stroking her pet rabbit (see image above from Netflix publicity), sharing her thoughts in contemporary language, and swilling red wine. She tells us what’s on her mind and in her mind throughout the production. Her observations, starting with her missing Captain Wentworth, the love of her life, are often amusing. In no way does this reworked Anne reflect Austen’s language or intent. In fact, her comical mannerisms and frequent faux pas wind up as a shallow, one-note substitution for the fully realized original. The makeup department also notably applied lipstick to her mouth, thereby diminishing Anne’s transformation from a wan and mousy woman into someone who blossoms with love when reunited with her captain. 

Captain Wentworth

The classic recipe describes Wentworth as a vigorous, successful male, whose pride prevents him from revealing the hurt and, yes, love he still feels for the woman who rejected him. In the classic recipe, one can find instances of his kindness towards Anne and his growing realization that this complex, level-headed, and kind woman is worthy of his regard now as much (even more) as then.

The modern Wentworth is certainly handsome (Cosmo Jarvis), but as written for this lite version, he remains on the sidelines. I wanted him sprinkled more vigorously into this plot, but had to make do with his weak, almost secondary role. Only when Anne reads his letter out loud (it is considered to be one of the best love letters ever written) does the real and complex Austen hero come to the fore.

Mary Musgrove

Her role (Mia McKenna-Bruce) adds much comic spice and her presence in the modern version seems major compared to her irritating presence in the classic. Certainly her ingredient is one-note and overly exagerrated, but her character remains true to Austen’s depiction of a selfish, prickly, and whining sister. One memorable addition not in the classic, but quite original, is of Anne answering her sister in Italian during Mary’s nonstop self-indulgent monologues – which she fails to notice.

William Elliot

His role is stronger in the lite recipe than in the classic. In fact, his (Henry Golding’s) presence overpowers Wentworth’s at times and Anne seems more susceptible to his dubious charms. Why is beyond me, for he shares with her his sleazy plan to prevent a possible marriage between Sir Walter and his daughter’s widowed companion in Bath, a Mrs Clay, who in the original recipe sported a snaggle tooth but who, in the lite version, has an ample bosom. William’s sole aim was to prevent Sir Walter from siring an heir that would knock him out of first place for inheriting what remains of the Elliot estate. His final scene in the film elicited a guffaw from me, but Austen’s classic wit did not look for laughter in the cheap seats and the ending in Persuasion-lite made no sense, for William would never have married a woman with no station in life or money.

Henrietta, Louisa, and Charles Musgrove (Respectively: Izuka Hoyle, Nia Towle, and  Ben Bailey-Smith). 

Sisters-in-law and husband of Mary Musgrove, they pop in and out of the lite narrative to showcase the sisters’ friendship with Anne and her former and current relationship to Charles. Louisa’s story arc especially moves the plot forward. Charles is Mary’s long suffering husband in the classic version, but the Chefs Moderne use him to demonstrate Anne’s awkward drunken confession during the Musgrove’s dinner party to inform the assembled company that Charles had proposed to her first. The Classic’s sensible, thoughtful Anne would rather have died than commit such crude impropriety.

Supporting Ingredients:

Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot

Both characters are sadly given short shrift. Their curt treatment was perhaps intentional, but during their short on screen time, the two actors made their mark. Richard Grant’s performance, while over the top funny, reminds me more of Billy Nighy’s comedic turn as Mr. Woodhouse in Emma. 2020 than the character described by Austen. In Grant’s case, his Sir Walter is certainly fixated on his self-important status, which in the lite version was funny. In the classic version, however, Austen made it clear that as a baronet he sat at the lowest end of the peerage scale, making his egotistical turn even more absurd. 

Elizabeth  (Yolanda Kettle) is not more beautiful than Anne, as described in the Classic. In fact, she looks anemically pale next to her sister’s vivid coloring. Except for Elizabeth’s sumptuous wardrobe and meticulous hairstyles, one would not have thought her to be the favored older sister. Her mean-spiritedness remains intact, however, and contrasts nicely with Anne’s, well, niceness.

Lady Russell (Nikki Amuka-Bird)

This lady’s well meaning advice separated Anne from her captain. She plays the loving mother substitute and appears just enough in Persuasion-lite to remind us that Anne has had someone in her corner since her mother’s death. As in the Classic, she shows more concern for her young friend than her actual family.

A variety of  ingredients (which, sadly, are mostly unrecognizable for uninformed palates in this lite version):

Admiral and Mrs Croft, Captain and Mrs Harville, Mr & Mrs Musgrove and their two young grandsons, Captain Benwick, Mrs Clay, and Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret. (Mrs Smith is undetectable.) 

Those unfamiliar with the classic recipe will miss their almost absent presence or wonder about their inclusion. Mrs Smith, who made an appearance in the Classic, is ignored, but she was an important witness to William Elliot’s character.

I defy those new to Austen to accurately suss out these characters’ relationship with Anne or the Elliot family. Sir Walter’s attraction to Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret is given more importance (we already know he’s a peerage snob) than the elder Musgroves and Mary’s two young boys, or Admiral and Mrs Croft, who play important roles in Anne’s journey back to Wentworth.

Spices:

Clothing

Some critics who reviewed Persuasion-lite found the clothes drab and lackluster. Their critiques should have been amended to Anne’s clothes only. Since the makeup department never removed the bloom off her rose, her wardrobe substituted for her appearance, which was ‘“so altered that [Wentworth] should not have known her again.” Her gray and brown spinsterish gowns brighten as she is exposed more to Wentworth’s company. The other actors and actresses are appropriately fashionable for their stations, which reflect clothing in 1816-17 England. I also thought that the homespun, handmade feel of Anne’s wardrobe made sense, in that she was the least favored daughter and probably had her clothes sewn by a local seamstress, whereas Elizabeth and Mary most likely demanded gowns made by modistes in London. 

Sites:

Ah, lovely England with its historic villages and great mansions.These were wonderfully represented with beautiful exteriors, interiors and gardens. Two locations played prominent roles.

Lyme Regis: This seaside village plays a pivotal role in both the Classic and Lite versions. The basic storyline of Austen’s plot remains in the lite version, but details are missing. Still, Lyme Regis, the Cobb, the village, and it beautiful shoreline are a visual treat, and many of the scenes do echo the Classic version,  and even include bits and pieces of original dialogue.

Lyme-Regis-Persuasion-Netflix (1)

First glimpse of William Elliot’s carriage in Lyme Regis. At the window from left, Anne Elliot and to her right the Musgrove sisters. To the far right, Mary Musgrove nee Elliot.

Bath: Ah, the buildings, the streets, the views of the Royal Crescent, the walk down the stairs in the Upper Assembly Rooms. There was no promenade in the Pump rooms, where Anne’s famous line to William Elliot is widely quoted (but looked over in the Lite version;)

“My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.’

‘You are mistaken,’ said he gently, ‘that is not good company, that is the best.” – Jane Austen, Persuasion

Although this lovely quote was not included, some of Anne’s conversations were used in Bath, as well as Captain Wentworth’s love letter. Since these scenes lead to the denouement, they ended the film on a high note.

Language: 

Here’s where the Chefs Moderne took the greatest license. Instead of using the beautiful language in the Classic, the Chefs Moderne chose modern phrases. I defy you to find them in a Regency era lexicon.

“We are strangers. Worse than strangers. We’re exes.” (Anne Elliot)

“It is often said if you’re a five in London, you’re a ten in Bath!” (Anne Elliot breaking the 4th wall when she looks directly into the camera to converse with the viewer.)

“Marriage is transactional” (Lady Russell)

“Thanks”

“I am an empath” (Mary Musgrove)

“Fart around”

“He’s a ten – I never trust a ten” (Anne about William Elliot) 

“Embodying gratitude” (Mary again)

Comment: 

Good grief. The Chefs Moderne must have burned their candles down to their wicks to come up with this drivel. After watching Persuasion-lite, those not initiated to Austen’s novels and who love this filmed version, might turn to the novel. Imagine their surprise when they discover that her 205 year old book,  filled with the language, customs, and manners of her day, varies significantly from this comic book version.

Personal request: Gentle readers, feel free to agree or disagree with my musings. Let’s keep our discourse genteel and agreeable for the sake of my sanity. I thank you in advance.

Other Critics Reviews:

Negative

 “At no point during Carrie Cracknell’s directorial debut do you ever get the sense that anyone’s actually read Persuasion.” – Dakota Johnson is woefully miscast in mortifying Jane Austen adaptation – Clarisse Loughrey, The Independent

“Our demure protagonist Anne Elliot is forever doing supercilious takes and wry monologues to camera, taking despairing swigs from a bottle of red wine in private, occasionally nursing a quirky pet rabbit, and at the end (unforgivably) gives us a wink to seal the deal of our adoringly complicit approval.” Persuasion review – Dakota Johnson looks the part as Jane Austen gets Fleabagged, Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

Positive

“For anyone not too bothered by departures from the novel, the romantic denouement will be immensely pleasurable.: – Dakota Johnson in Netflix’s ‘Persuasion’: Film Review, David Rooney, Chief Film Critic, The Hollywood Reporter

More reviews: 

Netflix’s Persuasion the worst film of the year?, Olivia Pym, GQ Magazine

Persuasion review – a travesty of Jane Austen, Slash Film,

Trailer of the film:

Under this trailer, J.Dion wrote:

“Anne’s strength is her quiet, consistency. She is intelligent and thoughtful.  Altering her character for modern sensibilities is insulting not only to Austin’s character but to modern audiences.  There are many “Anne’s” in this world they and deserve  to be valued for who they are and the enrichment they bring to all. 

Persuasion is my favorite of Austen’s novel. Unfortunately this looks to be another instance  of the “title and names are unchanged but the characters are missing.” 

Book Review by Brenda S. Cox

“I have had ample time to consider the difference between my former, naïve ideas of love and happiness, and the more mature and accurate view of them I now possess. I find that my opinions are quite transformed. How differently I feel about everything now! – about what I want, about what will make me happy.”—Marianne Dashwood in the last chapter of Colonel Brandon in His Own Words

Colonel Brandon is a bit mysterious. He has a tragic past, which we only see in glimpses. Readers sometimes think he is too serious for Marianne, and we don’t see much of their courtship or love story. Movies add some of this in, but not enough, in my opinion.

Colonel Brandon in His Own Words, by Shannon Winslow, fills in the blanks about Brandon’s background, his connections with both Eliza’s, and his romance with Marianne.

So, I loved reading Colonel Brandon in His Own Words, by Shannon Winslow, which filled in the blanks and brought Brandon more to life for me. The story is consistent with Sense and Sensibility, but adds new insights to the novel.

Sometimes I hesitate to read a parallel Austen story, thinking I will already know everything in it since I know the novel so well. But this time each page brought something new. Even when familiar incidents were included, from Brandon’s perspective, I sometimes had to go back to S&S and check—was it really like that? And it was.

I asked the author to tell us more about why she wrote this book, and what she loved about writing it. Here’s what she shared with us:

Shannon Winslow’s Thoughts on Colonel Brandon in His Own Words

If you’re unfamiliar with my work, the first thing you should know is that I’m a little different – probably in a lot of ways, but I’m talking about my writing philosophy. It’s different from most other JAFF authors in at least two respects. Let me explain.

First, I love ALL of Jane Austen’s novels. Okay, maybe not equally. Like most people, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite, but they’re ALL worth reading. They’re ALL worthy of our attention. So, early on, I decided I wanted to write at least one novel related to each of Jane Austen’s six. And I’m almost there!

I have Pride and Prejudice covered (The Darcys of Pemberley, Return to Longbourn, The Ladies of Rosings Park, Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley, Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words). I wrote The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen (probably the book of which I’m proudest!) for her fans who wish she’d enjoyed the romance and happy ending she crafted for all her heroines. I count Leap of Hope as my Mansfield Park book (although there’s a lot of P&P in it too). And I have a campy sequel to Northanger Abbey: Murder at Northanger Abbey. Now with Colonel Brandon in His Own Words for Sense and Sensibility, I only have Emma left to go!

The second major difference between me and most other JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) authors is that I don’t write “variations” per se. I can’t swear that I never will, but so far the books I’ve written expand on (or supplement) Jane Austen’s stories; they don’t change them. So all my books agree with each other and with canon. It’s just the approach that works best for me. I guess I’m sappy enough to believe that there’s one “true story” for the characters I’ve come to know and love, and that’s the one Jane Austen wrote. Adding on (with sequels, minor character stories, etc.) simply allows us to spend more time in their delightful company.

In other words, filling in the blanks Jane Austen left behind is my bread and butter, and there are a LOT of intriguing blanks when it comes to Colonel Brandon. Sense and Sensibility follows Marianne’s and Elinor’s movements primarily, so they are well covered. But there’s quite a bit of time when the men (Edward and Colonel Brandon) are “off camera,” so to speak, creating interesting blanks in the record. Since I really enjoyed writing the first-person, hero’s point of view in my previous book (Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words), I decided to do the same kind of thing for my S&S novel. But should I go with Edward or Colonel Brandon? Hmm.

No contest. In my opinion, Colonel Brandon is not only the more admirable character, he also has the more interesting backstory to work with. There’s so much we don’t know about him, though, and much of what we do happened long before the scope of the original novel. What were his family relationships like? And his sad history with Eliza, which scarred him for life? These things are briefly mentioned in Sense and Sensibility, but we don’t get any details. We don’t see and experience them for ourselves. What about his military years in India? That sounds like a research rabbit hole waiting to be explored. Lots of story potential!

I was also excited to flesh out Brandon’s romance with Marianne, huge portions of which are only hinted at by Jane Austen. She simply didn’t have the time and space to go into their 2-year courtship in any depth, but I did! I cover the day they met, their slow, gentle courtship, the proposal itself (with a very satisfying twist!), and then a brief glimpse into their married life. Everything is from Brandon’s point of view and in His Own Words.

It was such a joy to spend this past year with Colonel Brandon – quiet hero and consummate gentleman – poking around in his head, discovering more about the man, learning what he believes and how he thinks. I love and respect him all the more now! I hope you are a fan as well, or I trust you will be after reading his full story in Colonel Brandon in His Own Words.

More on the Book and the Author

Here’s the cover copy of the book:

Colonel Brandon is the consummate gentleman: honorable, kind almost to a fault, ever loyal and chivalrous. He’s also silent and grave, though. So, what events in his troubled past left him downcast, and how does he finally find the path to a brighter future? In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen gives us glimpses, but not the complete picture.

Now Colonel Brandon tells us his full story in His Own Words. He relates the truth about his early family life and his dear Eliza – his devotion to her and the devastating way she was lost to him forever. He shares with us a poignant tale from his military days in India – about a woman named Rashmi and how she likewise left a permanent mark on his soul. And of course Marianne. What did Brandon think and feel when he first saw her? How did his hopes for her subsequently rise, plummet, and then eventually climb upwards again. After Willoughby’s desertion, what finally caused Marianne to see Colonel Brandon in a different light?

This is not a variation but a supplement to the original story, chronicled in Brandon’s point of view. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the things Jane Austen didn’t tell us about a true hero – the very best of men.

Shannon Winslow, whose goal is to fill in the blanks Austen left behind.

Shannon Winslow says an ordinary trip to Costco fifteen years ago changed her life when she picked up a copy of the ’95 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. She’s been hopelessly hooked on all things Jane Austen ever since, her obsession ultimately inspiring her to write her own stories a la Austen. To date, she has authored eleven novels and a Jane Austen Devotional, with no end to her creative output in sight. Her two sons now grown, Shannon lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mr. Rainier. Visit her at her website and follow her on Facebook.

From Brenda again:

I highly recommend Colonel Brandon in His Own Words, especially to read in this year of focusing on Sense and Sensibility. I think it will add to your appreciation of S&S. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Brenda S. Cox writes on Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. Her book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England will be out this fall, Lord willing. If you’re interested in faith aspects of the book, see this review. And for Austen news, follow her on Facebook.

Hello, dear friends. Rachel Dodge here. I just moved to a new city (and state) and I’m feeling under the weather and can’t do too much at the moment. I won’t be able to post the article I’ve been working on for this month, so I thought I’d just hop on and say a quick hello to you all.

Watch Lists for the Ailing Austen Fan

While I’m recuperating, I’m in need of some good Jane Austen / Downtown Abbey type shows or movies to keep me going. I know this group will be a great place to ask for some watch lists!

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, 1995.

In the comments below, please tell me the shows or movies that get you through sick days. There’s nothing like a warm cup of tea and a lovely movie to help the hours pass.

Good Neighbors

After we moved in, it was very quiet at first, but today a neighbor left flowers and a card on our front porch! I texted her to say thank you and to let her know I’d love to meet her in person soon, once I’m feeling better, and she immediately asked if she could get anything from the grocery store for me. I needed a certain brand of vitamins and she went right out and got them. What a good neighbor!!

My kids have been walking our dog which gives them outings to fight off the boredom. It also means they get to wave at people as they walk up and down the sidewalk. Here’s a picture of our dog if you want to see why he’s a great helper when it comes to making new friends.

Has anyone ever done something for you when you first moved into a new house? What do you like to do for new neighbors?

Caring Friends

Once my friends “back home” heard I was sick, I soon received a flurry of text messages, calls, and Door Dash gift cards.

One dear friend who lives about 30 minutes from our new home set up a meal train with her friends in the area, even though she just broke her ankle! I can’t begin to express my gratitude.

A few care packages have arrived as well. Perfect timing! If you’ve given or received a care package, what was in it? If you could choose the perfect care package, what would you like to find inside? I found a note, a candle, a packet of tea, and a beautiful book of poetry. Absolutely perfect!

Be Still

Like most people, I’d much rather be the one to serve others, rather than be the one who is served, but I’m learning to be thankful and be okay with letting people help. It’s okay (and even needful) to be still sometimes. I’ve been thinking about the verse, “It is better to give than receive.” It certainly brings a lot of joy to both people, don’t you think?

Signing off now. Here’s to a new article next month that’s much more on topic. Wishing you all the very best in the meantime!


RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

Inquiring readers: This season the writers for the adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sanditon did their best to disguise how events would unfold to keep viewers guessing. I had fun picking up the clues, whether they made sense or not.

Char

Charlotte Heywood, Image @ PBS Masterpiece

Episode Two opens with Charlotte walking past the militia, who are making a colorful splash on the beach. Col Lennox notices her immediately, for he admires her candor and independence. They chat, and she explains she has a new governess position with a family that is expecting her. As they part, he tells her to look for an invitation to an event; she smiles and walks away carrying her strapped leather portfolio over her shoulder..

Tom and Arthur discuss poor dead Sidney and that it turned out he did not neglect Miss Lambe’s financial affairs in Antigua. They look at the future plans for Sanditon in Tom’s study. Arthur excitedly tells his brother about his idea of building a Theatre Royal as the next step. But Tom has other plans. He and Arthur walk along the promenade with Colonel Lennox. Tom, in an attempt to convince the colonel to remain in Sanditon with his militia, discusses building permanent barracks for them. Arthur remains quiet, thinking his plan is more sensible and looks disappointed.

Georgiana, ever the instigator, invites Alison to visit the militia’s camp unchaperoned to surprise the men. While Captain Carter is charmed, Captain Fraser is not. Indicating that this is no place for ladies, he escorts them away.

Charlotte arrives at Alexander Colbourne’s manse, an impressive pile of stone, and is greeted by Mrs Wheatley, the housekeeper, who, as it turns out, has waged a shilling certain that this new governess will last longer than the many previous failures. Others are betting she will not last. What trap has Char walked into? Augusta’s rude and disrespectful behavior gives us the first clue: Leonora’s preference to dress and behave like a boy is the second. However, on Char’s first day the girls are dolled up like ladies and await her in the school room. While practicing their embroidery skills, Augusta is especially cruel, but Char, who helped to oversee eleven siblings, does not rise to the bait. At lunchtime, Augusta pointedly tells Char she must eat in the kitchen. ‘Yeah!’ thinks Char, who must have been ecstatic to be free of this sour pus and have the supportive Mrs Wheatley for company.

After lunch, Char takes the children outdoors for their lesson and returns with a variety of jars filled with water and water snails. Leonora (Leo) runs into her father’s study to find a magnifying glass, interrupting him. Charlotte explains that Leo wanted to explore the creatures more closely, and the child pipes up, “We’re being malacologists!” When she leaves the room, Colbourne sternly reminds Char she’s been engaged to make young ladies out of the girls. Char points out how engaged the girl is, and turns to leave. He then says, “Planorbis carinatus, keeled ram’s horn. If you’re going to be a malacologist, you might as well use the correct terminology.”

‘What an overbearing prig,’ I thought. This man’s not intriguing enough to be a possible suitor for Char, but neither is Colonel Lennox for that matter. But what do I know? I’m still infatuated with godawfullyhandsome Sidney, who’s sadly dead.

There’s no redeeming E-d, pronounced Eh deee, Lady D’s disinherited heir, whose creepiness exudes from every pore of his skin. E-d lurks in broad daylight in a shop’s alcove along the promenade. When he sees Lady Bab, he hurries across the street, then pretends surprise to see her. “This must be fate.”

No fool she, Esther gives him the evil eye. “Fate has nothing to do with it,” she answers. “It’s a contrivance, you’re fooling no one, least of all me”

He pretends to be taken aback. “What will it take to convince you I’m truly repentant?”

The priceless Lady Bab answers, “Try drowning yourself,” before she sashays away.

Meanwhile, as Arthur Parker sleeps on the beach near the promenade, Charles Lockhart sketches him. When he awakens and sees Lockhart’s drawing, he forges a friendship with the painter, who tells Arthur he has a ‘rare masculine beauty.’ Arthur’s chest puffs up with the compliment. Lockhart then shares his desire to paint Miss Lambe, a woman he barely knows, but with whom Arthur has a trusting friendship. Having found an admirer and possible friend, Arthur is more than willing to facilitate an introduction.

Wanting to thank the townspeople for their warm welcome, the colonel and his men have arranged a dinner and ball in the resort’s assembly rooms. The table is exceptional with gleaming silverware, fine porcelain china, and glittering crystal goblets. If you recall, gentle reader, I decried the poor production values in Season 1, but this season has upped its visual awesomeness. For starters, three drummers drum in a first floor alcove as footmen wearing red regimentals carry heaps of food towards the diners. This was a spectacle indeed. One would surmise from all this sumptuousness that the colonel and his militia made whopping fortunes from the spoils of war.

Before the diners enter the room, Arthur secretly switches name cards so that Mr. Lockhart is placed next to Miss Lambe. Her ennui is evident, for she is not as enthralled by the display as the others. After Colonel Lennox toasts the King, Mr Lockhart stands to toast Napoleon’s abolishment of slaverly in 1814, thereby shocking the assembly. As many slap the table and chant ‘out, out, out,’ Lockhart’s smug smile shows he’s made an impression on Georgiana.

The guests then dance – and showcase some lovely moves. A dance in an Austen film is a must-have activity, else the time spent watching a Regency soap opera would be ill spent! Colonel Lennox escorts Char onto the floor and apologizes for her placement at the far end of the table meant for spinsters. She demurs sweetly.

Alison is as infatuated with her handsome rescuer as ever. In fact her heart is all aflutter, which I can’t understand because he looks all of 15 years of age. As they dance, a lovesick Alison stares at him starry eyed like a Regency groupy. She’s as smitten as Marianne Dashwood was with Willoughby, only Alison’s hero spent 10 calories raising her up from the beach whilst Willoughby must have expended 10,000 carrying a hefty Marianne a quarter of a mile or so to Barton Cottage.

Arthur dances with Georgiana. They are a cute platonic couple and I’m ever so hopeful that this friendship will blossom into something more romantic, but then I wanted Char to fall for Young Stringer in Season One and that never happened.

The scene switches to Miss Lambe and Mr. Lockhart on the balcony. (There’s something icky about the artist, but I can’t put my brush to it.) His talk about independence and his preference to live according to his own rules captivates her, especially when he advises her that it would take a brave lambe to wander from the flock. Mary Parker, her chaperone, observes their interaction with concern. Wise woman she.

Meanwhile, Col. Lennox ensnares Tom Parker into a game of dice. Arthur’s brain screams “No!” as he watches his brother win the bet. ‘Oh, fly-invested merde,’ he thinks. ‘This will not bode well.’

Lady D informs E-d that she’s invited Colonel Lennox for tea the following day to show off her brother’s medals. (Gentle readers, we know that Lady D only wants to learn the Colonel’s unvarnished opinion about his protege). Upon hearing this news, Lady Bab’s wooden expression is that of a patient anesthetized with enough painkillers to fell a horse. She awakens, however, when she sees an opportunity to test if E-d has truly changed his ways. Esther asks him to dance with Rev Hankins’ spinster sister, Beatrice, for she herself would rather be drawn and quartered and have her liver boiled in oil than dance with the fiend. Having no choice, he acquiesces to her request. The dance scene, with E.d’s snobbish reluctance contrasted against Beatrice’s innocent pleasure, is a delight to watch. As the cad squirms and the spinster revels in his inattention, Lady D and Lady Bab resemble two cats who have cornered a fat mouse, for they now know far he’ll lower himself to prove he’s human.

As the assembled guests leave the ball, the viewers learn many tidbits of information. Lockhart invites Arthur to his abode for a glass of port (and more information?). Georgiana collects Alison, who reluctantly leaves baby-faced Captain Carter. That unrefined young man in turn approaches Captain Fraser as a friend and fellow officer for help to impress Alison. He knows his knowledge of culture is a wasteland and he needs Fraser’s help in pretending he knows more about Cowper’s poetry than merely pronouncing the poet’s name, and to polish him with the cultural refinement he lacks. Poor Fraser. He’s developed a tendre for Alison (heaven knows why – she’s too silly-young) but feels loyalty to his comrade in arms and will honor the request.

As she says goodbye to Colonel Lennox, Char tells him that Mr Colbourne is her employer. The colonel’s resting angry face changes into an even angrier one.

In the next scene, the camera pans to a CGI view of Sanditon with the promenade and the beach in the foreground. Georgiana and Mary Parker are seen walking along a particular portion of the beach that viewers have witnessed repeatedly. The actors cannot walk far towards the camera, for if they do so, they will hit their heads on a wall. (See link to Episode One). Georgiana assures a worried Mary that her opinion of Lockhart has not changed. “He’s all conceit and affectation.” She’s also had her fill of suitors and would like Mary’s hunt for a husband to stop.

Colonel Lennox explains to Lady D that he’s askeds E-d to accompany him on his visit, for her nephew was “keen to hear about his late uncle.” Yes, Lady D remarks facetiously. “E-d has always taken a keen interest in family matters.” Lennox is not surprised, for E-d in his estimation has proved himself to be exemplary, honorable, courageous, and disciplined. Hearing this, Lady Bab nearly upchucks her lunch. When the colonel discusses E-d’s sincere desire to atone, her eyes roll up. Lady D quickly escorts the colonel to view her brother’s portrait, leaving Lady Bab and E-d alone. He once more attempts to apologize, but Esther turns away and thinks of 50 ways to kill her former lover.

We next see Char and Augusta sitting at a table, with the young girl spewing her nastiness at our heroine. Char remains kind and understanding and tries to elicit a conversation with her young charge. In the course of their conversation, Augusta convinces Char to visit a room containing a locked spinet, and entices her to unlock the instrument by giving her a key. She then asks Char to play something LOUD. On hearing the music, Colbourne angrily charges into the room demanding to know who had given Char permission to play his late wife’s instrument. Char takes full blame for her actions. At that moment, Leo, dressed as a boy, runs through the room. Colbourne chastises Char for losing control of both girls: She bravely points out his inattention and absence as a father. After her outburst, Char assumes she’s fired, but he unexpectedly tells her he’ll see her the next day. The housekeeper collects her shilling from Colbourne, and Augusta and Leo begin to soften towards Char.

On a relaxing evening, as Lady D and Lady Bab enjoy each others’ company, someone comes knocking at the door. Surprise! Clara Brereton with a belly the size of a wine barrel enters the Denham mansion. Both ladies are in genuine shock, for they thought they’d gotten rid of the minx forever. When Clara announces she’s carrying E-d’s child, we viewers rub our hands in glee. What unholy deliciousness do the writers have in store for us next?

Read Sanditon Season 2, Episode 1 on this site

Inquiring readers, I despise housework.  As I lugged my vacuum cleaner from room to room I thought: ‘It could be worse. I would only have a broom or mop had I lived in 1810.’

And so I should be grateful to clean my house in the 21st century. But what were the duties a typical maid of all work or housemaid during this era, and what cleaning supplies did they use?

The Housemaid c.1782-6 by Thomas Gainsborough 1727-1788

The Housemaid c.1782-6 Thomas Gainsborough, Tate Gallery, Public Domain

Dusting & Sweeping:

A Georgian/Regency household experienced a daily fight with dust, one that was usually lost. A wealthy family could afford more than one housemaid, but ordinary housewives most likely only had a maid of all work to help her. The poor were left to their own devices. Most roads and lanes in cities and towns were made of dirt that turned into mud on rainy days. Animal droppings from horses and cattle driven through town by drovers dried into dust if not swept from the street. Brisk winds would sweep dirt and flakes and dried droppings through cracks and crevices around windows and under doors. On mild days, windows were cracked open to admit fresh air, allowing the detritus to drift in a constant invasion.

Front entrances (indoors and outdoors), floors, and rugs also required constant maintenance. The job to clean them was unceasing.

In 1776, Susannah Whatman wrote the following in The Housekeeping Book for her housemaids:

“In cleaning floors…use as little soap as possible (if any) in ‘scouring’ rooms. Fuller’s earth and fine sand preserves the colour of the boards, and does not leave a white appearance as soap does.[Note that this job was performed on hands and knees.] All the rooms to be dry scrubbed with white sand.”

Susannah also wanted her maids to use a painters brush on ledges, furniture, and window frames – then follow up with feather dusters. Under no circumstances were they to dust pictures “nor the frames of anything that had a gilt edge.” They were never to dust black busts.

[Other mistresses expected housemaids to dust daily with clean linen cloths. After cleaning spots on wood furniture, they rubbed the wood with linseed oil until shiny.]

Daily chores:

  • Rise early to prepare the ground floor for the family. (more about this below)
  • Sweep the hall and staircase, and the “banister occasionally rubbed with very little oil and every day with a dry cloth.”
  • “To keep a small mop in the cupboard of the WC (water closet), and use water everyday to keep the inside clean.” The maid also had instructions to use only warm water during frosty weather.
  • Sweep the steps in front of the house
  • Force back all the window shutters so they will not get warped. Regarding shutters and drapes, they must be regulated according to the movement of the sun to prevent the sun from shining in full on carpets, painted furniture, pictures, and furniture with mahogany wood. For north facing windows, “the rooms must be aired, and the flies and flygokdubgs destroyed in time.”
  • Work in the Storeroom after her housework is finished, except on Saturday

Weekly housekeeping duties:

  • Tuesdays wash her own things and the dusters in the morning, and help wash stockings. In the evening iron her own things.
  • A_Woman_doing_Laundry_by_Henry_Robert_Morland

    A Woman Doing Laundry, Henry Robert Morland, 18th C., Denver Art Museum, public domain

  • Wednesdays fold with the Laundrymaid
  • Saturdays whisk the window curtains, and shake mats and carpets.

Her list goes on and on, which makes one wonder when and if the housemaid in Mrs Whatman’s house had any spare time

Daniel Pool in What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew states that housemaids were the women who kept the house running. I’d like to add that the housekeeper (or mistress of the house) made sure the people she supervised stuck to their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedules in the performance of their duties.

Leslie,_George_Dunlop_-_Her_first_place

Her First Place, George Dunlop Leslie, 19th c.?, Wikimedia, public domain work.

The reasons for the housemaids’ early rising was to make sure to lay & light the fires so that the family arose to a warm room. They then emptied grates of ash and cleaned them. For morning ablutions they hauled clean and heavy buckets of warm water up to the family’s rooms, sometimes as much as four times per day. After the family had bathed and washed and started their day, the maids took away dirty water and emptied chamber pots. They opened or closed curtains, then made beds in the morning and turned them down at night.

Pehr_Hilleström-Två_tjänsteflickor_vid_en_bäck (2)

Two Maid-Servants at a Brook, 1779, Pehr Hilleström, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the evening housemaids ironed or mended clothes, or tended to their own needs. Their day was never ending.

As the 19th century progressed, however, housework became less onerous. This was due to new inventions. Rumford fireplaces were more efficient and smaller than traditional fireplaces, and emitted more heat due to their design. Indoor plumbing was slowly introduced and by the end of the 19th century had become common even in middle class houses. Kitchen stoves with flat tops and doors that opened to an oven were invented and were sold by 1790. Their design encouraged the production of new flat-bottomed pots and pans. Insulated ice boxes kept an ice block from melting, keeping foods like milk and meats fresh. By 1809, methods of preserving food through sterilized glass containers or hermetically sealed cans reduced daily food preparation.

These inventions eased the intensive labor of maintaining and keeping a clean and smooth working household, allowing for fewer servants to perform the same chores or dividing the tasks in a different, more efficient way. Still, I thank my lucky stars for today’s automatic can openers, reusable storage containers, electric vacuum cleaners, freezers, water heaters, and sanitizers.

Regardless of our modern improvements, I still hate to do housework.

____________________

More About Female Servants:

Additional Sources:

Pool, Daniel. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From fox hunting to whist — the facts of daily life in 19th-century England (1993). NY, Touchstone, published by Simon & Schuster.

Whatman, Susanna. The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman. (Foreword by Christina Hardyment, afterword by Thomas Balston.) First published in 1776, published 1987. London, National Trust Classics.

What’s in a voice? According to recent research, quite a lot. In her article “Only 4 Syllables Needed to Recognize Voice,” Madeline McConnell says humans can identify familiar voices in as few as four syllables, or two words. That’s better than some of the most advanced voice recognition software available today.

Here’s how it works in everyday life: Spouses can recognize their mate’s voice across a crowded room. From a young age, “babies are able to distinguish the voice of their mothers from the voices of others” (McConnell). And close friends can hear one another’s voices from an adjacent room.

In the case of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, a word uttered by anyone else truly would not sound so sweet. The way they actively listen to one another—often without speaking directly to one another—plays a crucial role in repairing their relationship, rebuilding their trust, and rekindling their love.

Anne Listens

Throughout the novel, Austen gives us many important clues about Wentworth’s true feelings for Anne, often through what Anne hears (and overhears) him say. As Anne listens and hopes, she strains to catch hints of Wentworth’s true opinion of her now, to either “its constancy or its change” (Ch. 4). Here are a few key examples of Anne intent listening:

  • When they meet: “Her eye half met Captain Wentworth’s, a bow, a curtsey passed; she heard his voice.” (Ch. 7)
  • As she listens to his review of the past: “‘That happened before I went to sea in the year six,’ occurred in the course of the first evening they spent together: and though his voice did not falter, and though she had no reason to suppose his eye wandering towards her while he spoke, Anne felt the utter impossibility, from her knowledge of his mind, that he could be unvisited by remembrance any more than herself. There must be the same immediate association of thought, though she was very far from conceiving it to be of equal pain.” (Ch. 8)
  • Her discernment of the voice and mind she knows so well: “When he talked, she heard the same voice, and discerned the same mind.” (Ch. 8)
  • Her keen interest in the “low voice” on the other end of the sofa: “[I]n another moment he was perfectly collected and serious, and almost instantly afterwards coming up to the sofa, on which she and Mrs Musgrove were sitting, took a place by the latter, and entered into conversation with her, in a low voice, about her son, doing it with so much sympathy and natural grace . . .” (Ch. 8)
  • Her reaction to overhearing Wentworth, “in the hedge-row, behind her,” walking and talking with Louisa: “The listener’s proverbial fate was not absolutely hers; she had heard no evil of herself, but she had heard a great deal of very painful import.” (Ch. 10)
  • Her reaction to him “speaking with a glow, and yet a gentleness” to her: “She coloured deeply, and he recollected himself and moved away. She expressed herself most willing, ready, happy to remain.” (Ch. 12)
  • Her intense focus on his words and the sound of his voice: “Whether he would have proceeded farther was left to Anne’s imagination to ponder over in a calmer hour; for while still hearing the sounds he had uttered, she was startled to other subjects by Henrietta, eager to make use of the present leisure for getting out, and calling on her companions to lose no time, lest somebody else should come in. (Ch. 22)

And here especially, we see Anne’s ability to “distinguish” Wentworth’s words even in the midst of a noisy room, when he says, “A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman. He ought not; he does not.”

Either from the consciousness, however, that his friend had recovered, or from other consciousness, [Wentworth] went no farther; and Anne who, in spite of the agitated voice in which the latter part had been uttered, and in spite of all the various noises of the room, the almost ceaseless slam of the door, and ceaseless buzz of persons walking through, had distinguished every word, was struck, gratified, confused, and beginning to breathe very quick, and feel an hundred things in a moment. (Ch. 20)

Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Wentworth Listens

This keen sense of listening doesn’t just go one way. Even when he doesn’t look at her, Wentworth listens carefully to Anne. At the end of the novel, we discover the extent to which he has listened to her conversations with others and tried to discern her feelings:

  • When the topic of Mr. Elliot comes up: “As she spoke, she felt that Captain Wentworth was looking at her, the consciousness of which vexed and embarrassed her, and made her regret that she had said so much, simple as it was.” (Ch. 22)
  • When Charles says “What is Mr. Elliot to me?” and Anne realizes that Wentworth is “all attention, looking and listening with his whole soul; and that the last words brought his enquiring eyes from Charles to herself.” (Ch. 22)
  • How carefully Wentworth listens to Anne’s response to Charles: “She had spoken it; but she trembled when it was done, conscious that her words were listened to, and daring not even to try to observe their effect.” (Ch. 22)
  • Wentworth’s reaction to the topic of parents becoming involved in long or “uncertain” engagements: “Anne found an unexpected interest here. She felt its application to herself, felt it in a nervous thrill all over her; and at the same moment that her eyes instinctively glanced towards the distant table, Captain Wentworth’s pen ceased to move, his head was raised, pausing, listening, and he turned round the next instant to give a look, one quick, conscious look at her.” (Ch. 23)
  • When Wentworth tunes in to Anne’s conversation with Captain Harville about love affairs and constancy of heart between the sexes: “a slight noise called their attention to Captain Wentworth’s hitherto perfectly quiet division of the room. It was nothing more than that his pen had fallen down; but Anne was startled at finding him nearer than she had supposed, and half inclined to suspect that the pen had only fallen because he had been occupied by them, striving to catch sounds, which yet she did not think he could have caught.” (Ch. 23)

The most stunning piece of evidence is Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne, which he drafts while listening to her conversation with Captain Harville:

I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. (Ch. 23)

Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Wentworth’s words reveal that he was not only listening carefully to Anne during the letter-writing scene, but that he has been listening to her throughout the novel. Indeed, Anne’s voice is something like a siren call to the seafaring Captain Wentworth. No matter how hard he has tried to forget her, he has “never seen a woman since whom he thought her equal” and has only “imagined himself indifferent” (Ch. 23).

Rekindled Love

Though Anne and Wentworth’s initial courtship was brief, and though they have not seen each other for many long years, Austen shows us the depth of their true feelings through what they say (and don’t say). While this article only covers some of the most pointed examples of the subtle communication between these two characters, a close reading of the novel reveals so much more. Austen shows us throughout the novel—through gestures, looks, and glances—just how aware they both are of one another in every scene, in every room, and in every situation.

Indeed, Austen builds much of the romantic tension between Anne and Wentworth based more on what they say to other people than on what they say to one another. Throughout the novel, she uses listening and, yes, eavesdropping, as a clever literary technique. As Anne listens in on Wentworth’s conversations, analyzing his every word, phrase, tone, and inflection, we listen in as well, gathering clues as we go. And as she begins to dare to hope, so do we.

The art of listening well in Persuasion plays an important role in reigniting an old flame, rekindling lost love, and soothing broken hearts, helping to make Anne and Wentworth “more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected.”

What other moments have you noticed in this novel or another Austen novel when listening closely was important to the plot?


RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional, and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

I thought of Jane Austen today on the eve of the 205th anniversary of her death in Winchester. At only 42 years of age, she left us a legacy so rich that her genius as a writer is regaled to this day. Several days prior to her death on July 18, 1817, she wrote the following poem about the Winchester races.

James_Pollard_-_Ascot_Heath_Race_for_His_Majesty's_Gold_Plate_-_B1985.36.811_-_Yale_Center_for_British_Art

Ascot Heath Race for His Majesty’s Gold Plate, James Pollard, 1826, Yale Center for British Art, Wikimedia Commons. While this is not an image of the Winchester racing stands, one can gain a good idea of the size of the crowds and their enthusiasm.

When Winchester Races

When Winchester races first took their beginning
It is said the good people forgot their old Saint
Not applying at all for the leave of Saint Swithin
And that William of Wykeham’s approval was faint.

The races however were fixed and determined
The company came and the Weather was charming
The Lords and the Ladies were satine’d and ermined
And nobody saw any future alarming.–

But when the old Saint was informed of these doings
He made but one Spring from his Shrine to the Roof
Of the Palace which now lies so sadly in ruins
And then he addressed them all standing aloof.

‘Oh! subjects rebellious! Oh Venta depraved
When once we are buried you think we are gone
But behold me immortal! By vice you’re enslaved
You have sinned and must suffer, ten farther he said

These races and revels and dissolute measures
With which you’re debasing a neighboring Plain
Let them stand–You shall meet with your curse in your pleasures
Set off for your course, I’ll pursue with my rain.

Ye cannot but know my command o’er July
Henceforward I’ll triumph in shewing my powers
Shift your race as you will it shall never be dry
The curse upon Venta is July in showers–‘.

– Jane Austen

About the poem:

When it was written:

“Jane Austen wrote this poem just two days before her death, on 15 July 1817, which was the day of the Winchester Races, a fashionable race day and also St. Swithin’s Day. – Jane Austen’s House Museum

St Swithin:

St Swithin, a 9th century bishop, patron saint of Winchester, is linked through long tradition to the idea that if it rains on his feast day, it will continue to rain for 40 days and nights. The summer of 1817 was notably wet…” – Jane Austen’s House Museum

Venta:

Winchester’s old name, which dates from Roman times.

About the Winchester Races during the 18th-19th Centuries:

During both centuries races, such as the Winchester Races, welcomed all people from every segment of society, whether they were betting or enjoying the social events. Groups of hairdressers and milliners traveled from London and Bath to Winchester during their respective racing seasons to provide fashionable services (and between 1781 and 1790 the ‘finest assortment of French Pomades and coloured powders’). London’s season, linked to the sessions in Parliament, began in February at the start of the opening session. Many did not arrive until after the fox-hunting season at the end of March. Horse racing was an important component of each social season in the aforementioned cities.

The Winchester Races were held in late June/early July each season, from Tuesday until Thursday during one week. The city’s annual social calendar revolved around the social seasons of winter and summer. Amusements ranged from balls, assemblies, cockfighting, public breakfasts, fairs, etc. During race week, public breakfasts and balls were held daily. An annual performance by the Winchester College boys included a reading of a selection of prose and a music festival were also organized.

James_Pollard_-_Racing_(set_of_four),_2._A_View_of_the_Road_to_Newmarket_Races_-_B1985.36.862_-_Yale_Center_for_British_Art

A View of the Road to Newmarket Races, James Pollard, Yale Center of British Art, Wikimedia Commons.While this scene is about the crowds going to the Newmarket Races, one can imagine a similar group heading for Winchester in 1817.

These annual races drew people from all walks of life for nearly a fortnight. Genteel society took advantage of the social events to show off their finery, of which, as previously mentioned, certain working groups took full advantage. The change in racing venues provided an opportunity for visitors to move from a stifling London to fresher more rural environments, with the added attraction of more gambling opportunities.

Royalty was at times present at the Winchester races, but the ‘the bulk of its pleasurable amenities was utilised by the county gentry. Winchester society was well patronised by the Duke of Chandos and the Pawlett family (Marquesses of Winchester), as well as a host of others who were noted in the newspapers..’Proc. Hampshire Field Club Archived. Soc. 54,1999, 127-145 (Hampshire Studies 1999) LEISURE AND SOCIETY IN GEORGIAN WINCHESTER, By M COOPER

I don’t know what happened to Jane Austen’s original copy of the poem. This site by the Jane Austen’s House Museum offers a facsimile in her sister Cassandra’s hand. (Link to the Winchester Verses). On 24 May 1817, she left Chawton with Cassandra and moved into lodgings in Winchester to be near Dr Lyford at the County Hospital. Her illness however rapidly worsened and she died on 18 July 1817.

“The poem, which is written in cross-rhymed quatrains, was initially suppressed by [Jane’s] Victorian-era family, and later released in edited versions that changed words and punctuation (including one version that altered the word “dead” to “gone”. They thought that joking about St. Swithin and horse racing and death would be dimly viewed by the public.”Kelly R. Fineman

Austen Family Poetry:

Jane’s family left a legacy of letters, poems, riddles, and charades, which are charmingly captured by David Selwyn in his book, The Poetry of Jane Austen and the Austen Family. Below is a link to a youtube video on the Winchester City Museum site, in which another one of Jane’s poems is captured.

More About July 18, 1817 on this blog:

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