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Archive for the ‘Jane Austen’s World’ Category

By Brenda S. Cox

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book can change a life.”—The Jane Austen Remedy, by Ruth Wilson

I’ve certainly found this true in my life; haven’t you? This statement opens Ruth Wilson’s memoir of how a “careful re-reading of Jane Austen’s six novels” enabled her to “re-examine [her] lived life in the context of [her] reading life.”

In The Jane Austen Remedy, by Ruth Wilson, the author explores her life through the lens of Jane Austen’s novels.

When Wilson turned sixty, she realized she was “out of love with the world and . . . not happy.” She says, “my body was telling me that my soul, however such an entity is conceptualised, was ailing.” She grieved for herself, for what she had not achieved, and for “the years that lay ahead.” She identified with Elizabeth Bennet who says, “The more I see of the world, the more I am dissatisfied with it.”

So, Wilson bought a small cottage two hours from her home in Sydney, Australia. Her goal was to have “a room of one’s own,” as Virginia Woolf puts it in her book with that title (which I highly recommend, by the way). Woolf is talking about women writers, but Wilson says, “All women need their own space to inhabit, their own air to breathe.” She hoped, in that place “to find a happier way of being.”

Wilson left her husband and family for a time and determined to re-read Austen’s novels. She says,

I was making Austen’s novels a starting point for exploring the satisfactions and dissatisfactions of my own life, framed and illuminated by her fictional universe.

The Jane Austen Remedy takes readers along with Ruth Wilson on this journey through her life. She discusses many books that impacted her, some of which were familiar to me and some not. But the Austen novels were at the heart of her journey.

Wilson begins with her own discovery of literature and how it impacted her life. Her “reading life truly began with Pride and Prejudice,” which made reading into “a source of nourishment and imaginative expansion” for her. She says from that point on, Austen’s novels

shaped the course of my future: because of them, I became a lover of language, a teacher of literature, a parent-reader, and, in a broader sense, an educator. My inner life has been nourished, illuminated and comforted by the empathetic voices, the complex characters and the challenging ideas in Austen’s novels – and they have changed, as I have done, over a lifetime.

As Ruth Wilson was growing up, Austen filled personal needs that her family and the people around her could not fill. She says, “I think of Jane Austen as a writer whose novels never stop helping readers to grow up.”

 

Northanger Abbey covers, like this one from Barnes and Noble Classics, tend to emphasize the Gothic connection. But Wilson suggests a different emphasis for teenage readers.

Northanger Abbey

When she set out to re-read Austen, she began with Northanger Abbey, since it was the one she remembered the least. She discussed it with an English teacher, who taught it with a focus on the Gothic novel. (I have taught it that way myself, I confess.)

However, Wilson says we should teach literature by helping students look for ways the story relates to their own lives. I love this idea! She says, “The nature and authenticity of friendship and romantic intimacy are central ideas that shape the events of Catherine’s holiday in Bath.” Friendship and romantic relationships are likely to be the most relevant issues for young people reading the novel.

Re-reading Northanger Abbey led Wilson to consider her own friendships throughout her life. She identifies herself as being, like her father, “both Jewish and Australian.” She meditates on how those parts of her identity affected her relationships.

Pride and Prejudice

In Pride and Prejudice, Wilson found “an exploration of what it means to be human, of the consequences of daring to make bold choices about how to live.” She repeatedly finds new insights and new connections to her own life as she re-reads it. Elizabeth became her heroine as soon as Elizabeth laughed when telling Charlotte about Darcy refusing to dance with her. When you think about that, what an amazing and joyful response it was!

Sense and Sensibility

The Dashwood family’s displacement in Sense and Sensibility led Ruth Wilson to consider her own family’s displacement when they moved to Israel for some years. This move had repercussions for her children, her marriage, and her extended family. She considered her expectations, losses, and gains as she read about Elinor and Marianne’s experiences. This chapter also delves into the implications of Austen’s grammar and use of free indirect discourse to share the Dashwoods’ experiences.

Fanny Price shows her “strength of character” in refusing Henry Crawford.

Mansfield Park

Wilson looks at the moral dilemmas raised in Mansfield Park. She points out that many readers are drawn to the Crawfords, “despite continuing evidence that pursuit of their own happiness inflicts pain on those they call their friends.” Fanny’s “strength of character” shows up in strong contrast. Wilson appreciates Fanny’s “bold” claim that:

“it ought not to be set down as certain, that a man must be acceptable to every woman he might happen to like himself”!

Wilson also considers times of displacement in her own childhood as she sees young Fanny’s homesickness and adjustments.  

Emma

Wilson’s reading of Emma is subtitled “A Critique of Love.” She found that each time she re-read one of Austen’s novels, she connected with “a different stage of [her] life” and found “a different significance in each novel.” She thought about Emma’s early loss of her mother, and how her indulgent governess might have encouraged Emma toward self-love and slowed her emotional progress toward loving others. Emma investigates “filial love, neighbourly love, romantic love, love of others, self-love, and love of self.” Since Emma treats her self-centered father with love and respect, her story led Wilson to examine her relationship with her own father.

In thinking about film adaptations of Emma, Wilson makes a telling comment:

The point of making a film about a novel, surely [is] to illuminate or enrich or comment intelligently on the novel that is being glossed.

I suppose this is why we react strongly to some Austen adaptations; they may not fit our own understanding or interpretation of the novel, or they may give us new ideas about it which we love or don’t.

Persuasion

Wilson reads Persuasion with an old friend. They examine choices they have made and what second chances might look like. A theme of feminism runs through this book, and her friend Tamar has chosen a more independent course than Wilson has, but both have struggles and regrets. Wilson concludes that the people who love us can help us change. They can teach us how to love ourselves.

Conclusions

Wilson rebuilt her life in new ways. She began her PhD at age 84 and completed it at age 88. She researched “how and why Jane Austen’s novels were read and studied at school.” She says,

Fiction shows us possibilities; in real life we make our own choices and learn to live with them, one way or another.

She ends with a series of “Jane Austen remedies” for various maladies. For example, she prescribes Pride and Prejudice for “heartache” and Mansfield Park for “anxiety.” You’ll need to read the book to find the relevant symptoms, treatments, dosage, side effects, and benefits!

I found this book enjoyable and interesting. It does ramble, as the author takes us with her on her personal journey. Occasionally, she went off on tangents related to books and ideas I didn’t connect with, and I was lost for a bit. However, she soon returned to Austen, her own life, and how those intersected. The idea that Jane Austen can help us grow personally, at different stages in our lives, appeals to me and will probably appeal to most of our “gentle readers.” So, I recommend The Jane Austen Remedy to you all. 

Please tell us in the comments:

What is something new you’ve learned this year from Jane Austen?

Or, for what situations or feelings would you recommend a particular Jane Austen novel as a remedy?

 

From the press release:

An uplifting memoir of love, self-acceptance and the curative power of reading, The Jane Austen Remedy raises big questions about truth and memory, personal loyalty and betrayal, prudence and risk, reason and passion. It is an inspirational account of recovery and self-discovery. Ruth travels through nine decades of living, loving and learning, unravelling memories of relationships and lived experiences, looking for small truths that help explain the arc of a life that has been both ordinary and extraordinary.

 

Ruth Wilson, author of The Jane Austen Remedy

Ruth Wilson read her first Jane Austen novel in 1947 and in 2021 completed her PhD on reading and teaching Austen fiction. In between, she taught English and worked on oral history projects including one with Holocaust survivors. She encourages her four children, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren to read widely, wisely and well. She and her husband are a married couple who live apart together.

 

 

Brenda S. Cox writes for Jane Austen’s World and for her own blog, Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. Her book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is now available.

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Rachel Dodge’s Book Debut November 1st

Our very own author and contributor to this blog, Rachel Dodge, debuts yet another devotional on November 1st. Entitled The Secret Garden Devotional, the book offers inspiration that explores the themes of faith, family, contentment, wisdom, and joy based on the classic Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, cherished by generations. Purchase this book at stores near you or online in a variety of formats. Read the outstanding reviews on Goodreads. Average stars: Five!

Learn more about Rachel’s books in this link.

Student Contribution To Our Blog

Several weeks ago Mr Philip Turner, who volunteers with a children’s history club, described independently researched projects and presentations on topics of the children’s choosing. One group chose 19th century England. Their presentation was so successful and interesting that Mr Turner reports he learned a great deal of new information!

Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 6.37.05 PMThe students used our links page (https://janeaustensworld.com/links/) for their research. One of the kids, Alice, suggested that our blog add a link to an article they found about the History of Big Ben

They thought that our readers would find this site interesting. I love that they wanted to share  their find!

Mr Turner, and a number of other teachers and students over the years, have regularly sent their appreciation of our links. We are more than happy to include Alice’s suggestion! Thank you for contacting us, Mr. Turner, and please let your class know we’ve included the link in our list!

Pride & Prejudice 1995 China Pattern

Inquiring readers, Krissy, who enjoys our blog’s posts, alerted us to yet another china pattern used in the 1995 film that featured Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. She writes: “I‘ve especially enjoyed reading the articles about the china patterns in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, so when I came across the breakfast set used by the newly minted Mrs. Charlotte Collins at Hunsford Parsonage I thought I’d send it in!

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This Mandalay Blue Multicolor set by Mason’s was, no doubt, suggested by Lady Catherine herself as we all know that nothing is too small to be beneath her notice. (The photo is from Replacements.com.)

Where’s Jane? Find Jane Austen Hidden in Her Novels

Where's Jane bookThis book, published in 2018, and written by Rebecca Smith and illustrated by Katy Dockrill, is still available. I purchased mine at the Walters Art Museum gift shop recently. Amazon still sells it (although with postage added, it is the same cost as the museum’s). The reading age is for 6-9 year olds. What a perfect time to introduce Austen to children!

Images below show how the main plot of Pride and Prejudice (one of six novel examples) is introduced in comic book form, as are the characters in oval vignettes. Part One introduces the first half of the book, then provides two pages of wonderful images. Readers are asked to find the characters, as well as Jane Austen, whose image sits on the ‘About this Book’ page. 

The solutions sit at the very end.

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Images from Amazon.com from a preview of the book.

Part Two introduces the last half of the novel and more characters. As a tutor of adults, adult literacy, and children, I found this book not only a delightful introduction to Austen’s novels, but also a perfect way for a child to interact with texts and images, and provide them to answer question and ask questions of customs 200 years ago.

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by Brenda S. Cox

“I am never too busy to think of S&S. I can no more forget it, than a mother can forget her sucking child; & I am much obliged to you for your enquiries.”—Jane Austen, letter to Cassandra Austen, April 25, 1811, quoted in AGM brochure.

On this day, Oct. 30, 211 years ago (1811), Jane Austen’s first novel was published, Sense and Sensibility! A few weeks ago, the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) met to discuss and celebrate “Sense and Sensibility in the City of Gardens.” The garden city of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, hosted this 2022 AGM.

Lovely logo for the 2022 JASNA AGM, Sense and Sensibility in the City of Gardens (Victoria, Canada)

Getting to Victoria was challenging for those of us on the east coast, but it was rewarding. The city is on an enchanting island on the west coast of Canada. Those who came early or stayed late were able to visit famous Butchart Gardens, a nearby castle, or other local sights. Personally, I chose to go whale watching, which was a delight. We watched a pod of orcas and saw a humpback whale waving his front flippers back and forth at us!

During the conference itself I got to choose between many great options. The schedule overflowed with fascinating talks, fun workshops, and great events. Of course an Emporium offered great books from Jane Austen Books as well as other goodies from Jane Austen’s Regency World and regional JASNA chapters. And I found many wonderful “kindred spirits” to talk with between events.

Plenaries: Cowper, Sin, and Duels

Each speaker showed us Sense and Sensibility through a unique lens. The first plenary speaker,  Dr. Emma Clery, spoke on “‘Our Garden is Putting in Order’: The Place of William Cowper in Jane Austen’s Thought-World.” Having studied Cowper extensively for my own book, I was intrigued by Clery’s ideas on Cowper’s influences in Sense and Sensibility. She said the Dashwoods were expelled from the “garden” of Norland, as Jane Austen was expelled from her “garden” at Steventon. This “paradise” is regained at Delaford, which is described in terms of garden walls and fruit trees. People in Austen’s works are like plants, needing the right conditions to grow. I want to explore the many references to trees, timber, and woods that Clery said are found in S&S.

The most controversial talk of the weekend was Robert Morrison’s “‘Deeper in a Life of Sin’: The Regency Romance of Sense and Sensibility.Dr. Morrison, author of The Regency Years, showed the bad sides of all the men in S&S, claiming that none were real heroes. He also suggested that the first Eliza’s baby might have been Brandon’s, and that Marianne might have been losing Willoughby’s baby when she was so ill at Cleveland. He got a lot of pushback on these ideas; we can find potential evidence both for and against his suggestions. But his talk did start some great discussions through the rest of the weekend!

Finally, during Sunday brunch, we heard all about “The Many Duels of Sense and Sensibility” from Susannah Fullerton, author of Jane Austen & Crime. Fullerton told us that dueling at this time was not legal, but was rarely prosecuted. In this “Age of Politeness,” looking too closely at a man or brushing against him could result in a duel. She went on to describe the duels in S&S which were fought with words. She sees duels between John and Fanny Dashwood (Fanny wins), Fanny and Elinor’s mother (Fanny wins), Elinor and Lucy (goes back and forth), and more. From this perspective, as a novel of cutting and thrusting, Fullerton challenged us to look at the references to needles, pins, scissors, and knives in S&S, as well as “cut” and “sharp.”

Activities and Options

Outside of the plenaries, we had many great activities to choose from: workshops (including, as always, lots of dancing), special interest sessions, an improvised play, and great breakout sessions. Breakouts focused on a wide range of topics, including the arts, Austen in Spanish, specific characters in S&S, military service in the East India Company, information literacy, landscapes, a “playlet” dramatizing Lucy Steele’s tactics, and much more. Articles based on many of these are likely to appear in the next editions of Persuasions and Persuasions On-Line, so be on the lookout!

Breakout Sessions on Religious Themes

Besides religious echoes in the three main talks, three of the breakout sessions focused on one of my interests, the religious aspects of the novel. Laura Dabundo, author of Jane Austen: A Companion, shared about “Jane Austen’s Ode to Duty: Morality and Conscience in Sense and Sensibility.” Comparing S&S to Wordsworth’s “Ode to Duty,” Dabundo showed that “duty is manifest in one’s principled obligations to family, friends, church, and nation, personally and in community.” 

Roger E. Moore, author of Jane Austen and the Reformation, asked whether S&S might be “Jane Austen’s Most Religious Novel.” He examined the idea of religious enthusiasm, overly emotional reactions to religion, feared in Austen’s day. Many of Marianne’s thoughts, feelings, and actions fit with this religious enthusiasm. So it is possible Austen was showing the pitfalls of that contemporary concern.

I (Brenda S. Cox) also had the privilege of sharing my thoughts about “Faith Words in Sense and Sensibility: A Story of Selfishness and Self-Denial.”  I explored themes of vices and virtues in the novel. Austen, rather than preaching like many of her contemporaries, chose instead to use examples to encourage moral behavior. Elinor’s selfless behavior throughout, and Marianne’s repentance late in the novel, give strong examples to follow. Austen used “faith words” that had strong religious connotations in her time to reinforce her messages.

A Few of My AGM Highlights, in Pictures

Bookbinding workshop: Richelle Funk taught us some basic bookbinding skills, and we made lovely little notebooks; I used mine to take notes during the conference. Here, Baronda Bradley, in one of her gorgeous outfits, prepares her booklet for binding.
Beading with Jane Austen Workshop: Kim Wilson displays a replica of Jane Austen’s bracelet, along with other variations that can be made with her instructions and supplies, soon to be available online; sign up for her newsletter list to be notified. With her instructions and materials, I was able to start a lovely single-strand bracelet, and finish it as soon as I got home.

In a special interest session, Kristen Miller Zohn told us about “Gender and Decorative Arts in Austen’s Novels.” She explored how decorative arts, interiors, and clothing presented in Austen’s novels, particularly Northanger Abbey, speak to the unique roles of women and men in Austen’s era.
Cecily Van Cleave, a historical fiction writer, led another special interest session on “Beyond the Garden Wall: Priscilla Wakefield, Women in Botany, and the Intersection of Art and Science during the Austen Era.” We learned that women wrote science guides in this time, intended to help young ladies replace frivolous pursuits with more serious, intellectual hobbies.
Donna Fletcher Crow, dressed in a replica of Austen’s costume in the Byrne portrait, showed us maps and scenes of “Jane Austen in London with the Dashwoods.” She also explained the significance of Austen’s choices for locations. Listeners, though, seemed to be most fascinated by her mention of pencils as cutting-edge technology of the time, with graphite as a precious English product.
The Banquet and Promenade were a lovely time for many to dress up and show off their outfits. Kristen Miller Zohn and Jennifer Swenson, coordinators of the 2021 Chicago AGM, at the banquet.

For many of us, the Ball is always a joy and delight. Most people dressed in lovely costumes, like those in the above photos of Renata Dennis (head of the diversity committee) and myself, Jeanne Talbot, and Baronda Bradley (whose bustle held a bouquet of fresh flowers) with her husband Eric Fladager. We all danced the night away.

Next year, I hope you will join us at the 2023 AGM in Denver for “Pride & Prejudice: A Rocky Romance.”

 

Brenda S. Cox, author of the new book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, writes for Jane Austen’s World and for Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. You can also visit her on Facebook.

 

 

 

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Fashionable GoodnessGentle Readers:

One of our blog’s writers, Brenda Cox, is introducing her book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England this week to the Jane Austen community. I am not only excited about its publication, but honored to be the first person on this tour to interview her. 

Prior Praise: 

“Finally! Fashionable Goodness is the Jane Austen reference book that’s been missing from the bookshelves of every Austen fan and scholar.”

— Rachel Dodge, bestselling author of Praying with Jane

You will look at Mr. Collins, the Crawfords, the Dashwoods, the Tilneys, the Wickhams, and Willoughbys–and especially Fanny Price!–with new and surprising insights. Bravo to Brenda Cox for giving us this very accessible, illuminating take on the ‘fashionable goodness’ of Austen’s era!”

— Deborah Barnum, Jane Austen in Vermont

Vic: What prompted you to write Fashionable Goodness? Was your decision a quick one, or was your journey long and thoughtful?

Brenda: It was a long journey. I first intended, about ten years ago, to write a novel based on Sense and Sensibility. But I always want to get things “right,” so I began to research. I wanted to include the church and faith in the story, since those things are important to me and I knew they were important to Austen. I discovered some fascinating churches, with their own stories, on a visit to Bath. I got hold of all the relevant books and sources I could. As I learned more and more about the church in Austen’s England, my notes multiplied. 

Finally, I realized that I needed a book about this topic, and it might benefit other readers as well. Therefore, I decided to put together a book that would bring together a wide range of information in one place. I wanted it to be accurate, affordable, and accessible for any reader. The book grew, I cut it back, grew, and I cut it back, multiple times. The text is easy for anyone to read, plus I have included resource lists and notes for scholars.

Eventually I shared it with friends, writers, and my wonderful editor, who all told me I needed to publish it. It’s been a  journey of several years even from then. I am such a perfectionist that it’s hard for me to let go of the book and release it into the world, but I’m excited to see it become “real” at last!

Vic: How did researching and writing Fashionable Goodness give you insights about Jane Austen as a person and a writer?

I can see now how deeply Austen’s faith affected her life and novels. I can also now understand her references to the church and clergy. That gives even more depth to the stories and characters.

Vic: How did your research change your personal feelings towards Jane?

Brenda: I feel closer to her now, since I’ve spent so much time in her letters and books. I looked at many small details to gain a clearer picture of her values. I can understand and appreciate her views, even when they are not quite the same as mine.

Vic: Do you have any advice for authors who are thinking about self-publishing? What tools do they need? What support system would help them along?

Brenda: For myself, I spoke to a number of agents and publishers during my journey, and their input was helpful. Some really liked the book and wanted to read it when it came out. However, it didn’t fit into their “categories,” since it’s about literature, history, and religion, and the intersection of all three. Also the book is fairly long, but my editor and beta readers kept wanting me to add more rather than take things out! So finally I went with self-publishing, which gives me the freedom to publish something “outside of the box” and charge what I think is a reasonable price.

But, I made sure to do it right. I have been writing for publications for many years. I know the craft well, from books, courses, and workshops about writing. I attended writers’ conferences to learn and to network. I hired a professional editor: a Janeite I providentially met at an AGM, who has edited for major publishers. I got extensive feedback from other writers and from beta readers. I got very involved in JASNA and gave JASNA talks, which honed my information and showed me what Janeites wanted to know. And, in the book, I show extensive documentation (with many pages of endnotes and a long bibliography) for those who might wonder about a self-published work.

The mechanics of self-publishing are much easier than in the past; Amazon keeps honing the process. A friend recommended Vellum as a formatting program, which I found excellent and reasonably priced. Once you have a good, professionally written and edited book, getting it online is not difficult, if you are at all technically inclined. (If you are not, you can hire people to do that part.) 

I am thankful that self-publishing has allowed me to get this book out into the world without the long lead time and higher prices of more traditional publishers. But I do encourage anyone considering self-publishing to get good help and make sure your work is done well.

Thank you, Brenda, for your thoughtful answers. You are the fourth writer I know who is self-published. While the journey is not easy, all feel such satisfaction in finding their hard work in print. I wish you all the luck in the world with this book!–Vic

Brenda CoxAbout the author, Brenda S. Cox:

Brenda S. Cox has loved Jane Austen since she came across a copy of Emma as a young adult; she went out and bought a whole set of the novels as soon as she finished it! She has spent years researching the church in Austen’s England, visiting English churches and reading hundreds of books and articles, including many written by Austen’s contemporaries. She speaks at Jane Austen Society of North America meetings (incuding three AGMs) and writes for Persuasions On-Line (JASNA journal) and the websites Jane Austen’s World and her own Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen.

Where to Buy:

Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is now available from Amazon and Jane Austen Books. International link: Amazon

Blog Tour Schedule

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R.I.P. Marsha Hunt: Mary Bennet Actress in 1940’s Cinematic Treatment of Pride and Prejudice

749px-Marsha_Hunt_in_Pride_and_Prejudice_trailer

Marsha Hunt as Mary Bennet

Marsha Hunt, Pride and Prejudice’s Mary Bennet in the classic 1940 film, died a few weeks ago at 104 years of age. Those of us of a certain age recall this first full feature film of Pride and Prejudice well (view a description on IMBD). This flawed (yes, FLAWED classic in my opinion – the comments in this post, including mine, are quite heated. Many readers and classic film aficionados have disagreed with my opinions) introduced the Bennets and Mr Darcy in full black and white glory in a Mr Dickens wonderland. Still, Marsha’s Miss Mary left an indelible memory in my mind – the middle child, striving to compete awkwardly but in her own way with her more noticed and beautiful sisters – struck much empathy in my heart. 

The female costumes in this film were awful, for they were NOT vintage 1813, when P&P was published, but were repurposed from another studio film that dated in the Victorian era. Greer Garson’s advanced age (36) in playing Elizabeth had me snort wine out of my nose. Laurence Olivier as Mr Darcy (and the same age as his character) looked as if he fought a burr in his pants throughout the entire production. (He was unhappy with Greer, wanted Vivien Leigh to play the part, but the studios nixed this because of their scandalous love affair, which would be no more than rubbish today.)  

In addition, the film’s ending was changed in a manner that defied Jane’s intentions: Lady Catherine de Bourgh was the Deux et Machina who reunited Darcy and Elizabeth in marriage. When I saw that scene, I could no longer hold in my popcorn. (This JASNA article from 1986 holds a different view from mine. It was written years before subsequent adaptations when 1800’s Regency empire fashions were accepted as romantic and accurate by contemporary audiences.)

marsha hunt glamorous

Marsha Hunt

This P&P adaptation IMO was not a Jane Austen adaptation – it was a fantasy Hollywood re-creation. I don’t care how much Aldous Huxley was/is admired – he messed with my Jane.  Marsha Hunt is still my most memorable Mary (She acted in over 60 films in her career). Whose Mary is your favorite in subsequent P&P film adaptations? Informed minds want to know!

IMBD Obituary of Marsha Hunt.

Now Available: Jane Austen: Connecting the Dots (Her Letters Explained), Edited by Harvey T. Dearden

Jane Austen Connecting the Dots - Her letters explainedHow could any book compete with Deirdre Le Fay’s 4th edition of the Jane Austen’s Letters, I wondered? None in my opinion, for her last edition provides all the information I needed when reading Austen’s letters. YET. Harvey T. Dearden assembled a resource of her letters for people new to Austen who wanted an annotated edition that was easy to use and follow.

Let’s be honest. Le Faye’s excellent book is hard to use. While her content includes the letters, abbreviations and citations, notes, general notes, select bibliography, biographical index, topographical index, subject index, and general index – the size and arrangement of the book is awkward. I experienced a lot of back and forthing, and needed to tag the pages when reviewing the history and details of the letters. Le Faye’s research is definitive and the best in the business, but the hard book is difficult to use because its size is small (8 ¾” x 5 ½”  x 2 ½ “) and incredibly thick (667 pages). One cannot keep the book open without breaking its spine and placing heavy weights on it to read it while taking notes.

Mr Dearden’s new edition introduces the letters to a newer reading audience. His annotations are simpler, his book’s contents are more straightforward, and the size of his paperback allows the book to lay flatter, while the font size s larger.  In short order, Jane Austen: Connecting the Dots (Her Letters Explained) target an audience of Austen fans who are curious to know more about Austen’s personal life, thoughts, and family and friend connections in a relaxed manner.

Mr Dearden’s book is designed for Austen fans. Ms LeFaye’s book is the definitive scholarly edition of Austen’s letters. Her book is rich with scholarly information; Mr Dearden’s book is easy to handle and use.

Find Jane Austen: Connecting the Dots book by Harvey T. Dearden at Amazon UK.

For US citizens, enter the title of the book and author in Amazon US. This works best if you already subscribe to Amazon Prime.

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