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By Brenda S. Cox

We got to enjoy “Jane Austen in the Arts” at the 2021 Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) Annual General Meeting (AGM). Over 500 participants gathered in Chicago last weekend to learn, enjoy each other’s company, and have fun!

The crowd was smaller than usual, and covid precautions were taken. Europeans weren’t able to come, though we had a few brave Canadians join us. It was a delight to be back together in person. Most regional JASNA groups are only now re-starting in-person meetings after many months of gathering only on Zoom. (If you didn’t know about JASNA, check it out; you will likely find a group near you.)

The Jane Austen Society of North America recently held their Annual General Meeting in Chicago.

So what does Austen have to do with the arts, you might wonder? We learned both about the arts during Austen’s time, and artistic adaptations of Austen today. Here are some of the topics we discussed.

Plenary Sessions

  • Gillian Dow told us about theatre and Austen’s dialogue.
  • Devoney Looser compared Jane and Cassandra’s inspiring one another through writing and art with Jane and Anna Maria Porter, sister-novelists writing at the same time.
  • Desmond Shawe-Taylor explained the Prince Regent’s enjoyment of art, especially the Dutch and Flemish painters popular at the time.
  • Maestro Stephen Alltop and Soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg gave us a concert of some of Jane Austen’s favorite music. One of the highlights of the weekend for me was their hilarious interpretation of “The Battle of Prague,” with Josefien’s farcical dramatization: shooting, riding an imaginary horse, “suffering” from wounds, and ducking cannonballs. (And, Maestro Alltop introduced the piece with a wonderful reading from Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad about it, which started us laughing and we didn’t really stop!)

Special Interests

Participants chose from a rich palette of special interest sessions and breakout sessions, addressing all of these arts:

  • Music of the time, and the music used in Austen movies
  • Fashion
  • Painting
  • Sketching
  • Drama
  • Elocution
  • Dance
  • Embroidery
  • Costume Design
  • Graphic Novels and Comics
  • Cooking
  • Art Appreciation
  • Collecting Art
  • Adaptations of Austen
  • Satirical Cartoons
  • And even making videos for Tik Tok!
Joy Refuerzo Provost shows the silhouette she cut of the Prince Regent. Cassidy J. Alexander, standing next to her, is a professional silhouette artist and historian who taught the workshop at the AGM.

Tours and Workshops

For those who came a day early or stayed late, tours were offered of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, Chicago movies, and more. Workshops, organized by Lori Mulligan Davis, let participants try their hands (and feet) at:

  • Calligraphy
  • Making Feather Headpieces
  • Watercolors
  • Silhouettes, and of course
  • English Country Dance

Entertainment

Besides all these fascinating learning opportunities, I loved the two main events.

  • Chicago’s Ghostlight Ensemble performed a captivating reading of A. A. Milne’s play, Miss Elizabeth Bennet: A Play from Pride and Prejudice. Bennet stole the show, with many hilarious lines. The play more or less followed the plot of Pride and Prejudice, but with some fun new twists thrown in.
  • And of course, the Ball, following a banquet. So fun to be back dancing again, even with masks on! Callers Tom and Toni Tumbusch led the four long lines of dancers through two easy dances, to get the newbies comfortable, then brought us through the complex dance from the 1995 movie of Pride and Prejudice. This was loosely based on the dance “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot”—maggot meant a favorite, not a worm! The caller explained that choreographers totally revised that dance so that it would look good on film and give Darcy plenty of chances to give Elizabeth “smoldering” looks! The changes did make it harder to dance, but we did it. And the last dance was the slower Duke of Kent’s Waltz. It didn’t actually include waltzing, though it was in ¾ time.
  • Those who didn’t want to dance could play whist or join a trivia tournament.
Renata Dennis, chair of the Diversity (JEDI) Committee, and Brenda S. Cox, dressed for the banquet and ball at the AGM.

Diversity

JASNA has been making great efforts to make Austen more accessible to a wide variety of people, including younger audiences and audiences from various backgrounds. The JASNA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee (fondly called the JEDI Committee) includes nine committed Janeites from a variety of backgrounds. I asked the JEDI chair, Renata Dennis, what she saw as the highlights of this AGM.

Renata sends kudos to the amazing AGM organizers, Kristen Miller Zohn and Jennifer Swenson, for making a point of including topics related to Jane Austen and diversity.

Kristen Miller Zohn and Jennifer Swenson, organizers of the 2021 AGM

Some examples Renata appreciated:

  • Johann S. Buis and Lisa Brown shared about musicians of color including George Polgreen Bridgetower, Ignatius Sancho and others, with samples of their work.
  • Georgie Castilla, an artist from Mexico, gave a fascinating presentation on Austen adaptations in comics, manga, and graphic novels. I was surprised to learn that while comic adaptations of other classics have been around for a long time, the first Austen comics appeared only recently. Georgie also pointed out that in cartoon adaptations, the characters can easily be shown as from diverse backgrounds. I bought one of his t-shirts, which proclaims “Austen is For Everyone,” and shows a variety of people in Regency clothes. 
  • Lena Ruth Yasutake talked about ways to introduce “new, younger, and more diverse audiences” to Austen through drama, education, and costume.
  • Devoney Looser talked about Charles Austen’s connections to suppressing slavery. She encouraged us to not fear addressing difficult topics of the Austens’ connections to slavery. The issues are complex, with many gray areas, but well-worth exploring in depth.

A recent issue of Persuasions On-Line also focuses on Jane Austen and Diversity.

Dancing at the Ball. Georgie Castilla and Sheila Hwang, members of the JEDI Committee.

Shopping

What else? Of course we also got to shop! Jane Austen Books offered their usual incredible selection of books, magazines, and other goodies, including a book signing with authors who spoke at the AGM. Other vendors sold clothing, accessories, socks, the Wisconsin region’s lovely Austen calendars, and other fun stuff.

This image by Georgie Castilla premiered at the AGM, featured on t-shirts, mugs, stickers, and tote bags. Items are available from Cassandra’s Closet.

Want to join in?

JASNA will be offering recordings of many of the sessions for those who didn’t make it to the AGM, for a fee. (My own talk on “Satirical Cartoons and Jane Austen’s Church of England” will be included.) I suspect that, like the AGM, the recordings will just be available to JASNA members, but I encourage you to join. The organization provides wonderful resources as well as great friends to network with.

And, you might want to start saving up for the next AGM, which will be held Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2022 in Victoria, BC, Canada. I hear it’s a gorgeous place. The theme is “Sense and Sensibility in the City of Gardens.” I’m looking forward to it!

SPECIAL NOTE: IF YOU WANT TO JOIN JASNA, DO IT THIS WEEK! FEES WILL INCREASE ON NOVEMBER 1. INDIVIDUAL MEMBERSHIPS, NOW $30 PER YEAR, WILL INCREASE TO $45 PER YEAR ON NOV. 1.

Brenda S. Cox blogs on Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen

Inquiring readers: In early October, Prof Elaine Chalus, Historian of 18-19C British gender, politics & society, sent a link to eight sessions of the Bath 250, A Virtual Conference, The 250th Anniversary of the New Assembly Rooms of Bath, given on 29t & 30th September 2021. I have listened to only a few of the presentations and hope to listen to many more before the two weeks are over. The presentation that resonated the most with me so far was of  Stephen Pool’s discussion of the sedan chairmen. I hope my synopsis accurately summarizes his main points.

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After the French Revolution that promoted new ideas about equality, Bath sedan chairmen signed a declaration of fidelity to the King of England and the Constitution. They numbered 326. Interestingly, as a group the general public considered them to be rude and their language offensive, making their support of the King all the more interesting. In their defense, Steve Pool states:

“They worked in all weather. The worse the weather, the more likely they were to be called upon, from morning to night. In standing rain, the chairs became wet, inside and out”

Often, when the weather became intolerable (wind, snow, rain), many chairmen were nowhere to be found, and customers who sought their services were forced to walk towards their destinations through the elements.

Sedan chairmen’s manners were considered by many customers to be insolent in public situations. The fashionable crowd often  considered them rude and grating. Cartoonists especially loved to capture these exchanges. Today we should not confuse these Georgian caricatures as objective or realistic observations. (Unfortunately, I could not find the many images in the public domain in Steve Pool’s presentation, except for this one.) 

A modern belle going to the Rooms at Bath-Gillray

A modern belle going to the rooms at Bath, James Gillray, 1796. Wikimedia Commons. The chairmen are drawn as rough, unhappy, and loutish. The belle is tender and refined. Notice the traditional Bath chairmen outfits.

Rules and regulations by the magistrates regarding the conduct of chairmen give us an insight into the difficulty they encountered in making a decent living. 

  1. Chairmen were required to apply for a license each winter to operate.
  2. Their clothes and combination of colors were strictly enforced. 
  3. Work began at 6 AM and lasted until midnight.
  4. The number of stands were enforced with the permits restricted for each site. If the maximum number of permits was reached, the chairmen would have to find another stand in another part of town.
  5. Only two places in Bath permitted an unregulated and unranked number of chairs: at the upper and lower assembly rooms, and occasionally “at the theater on play night or outside the Guildhall after an entertainment.” (Interestingly, the magistrates made sure that the stands connected the lower town with the newer uptown.)

Costs for licenses and stands were high for a 12-month period. In addition, complaints about the chairmen’s conduct were heard twice a week by the magistrates at lunchtime. Serious offenses included carrying customers without a license (40 shillings) to standing at a stand that was already full (10-20 shillings.)

When one considers that in 1739  chairmen charged only 1 shilling for any journey between 500 yards and a mile, and only 6 pence within city walls, and that this charge did not change for most of the century, one can understand why the chairmen began to object against the rigid, unchanging pricing system.

One other consideration is the customer’s behavior. Anstey, in his poeticals in The New Bath Guide 1780, described this incident in verse:

THIS Morning, dear Mother, as soon as ’twas light,

I was wak’d by a Noise that astonish’d me quite,
For in Tabitha’s Chamber I heard such a Clatter,
I could not conceive what the Deuce was the Matter:
And, would you believe it ? I went up and found her
In a Blanket, with two lusty Fellows around her
Who both seem’d a going to carry her off in
A little black Box just the Size of a Coffin;

Pray tell me, says I, what ye’re doing of there ?’
Why, Master, ’tis hard to be bilk’d of our Fare,
And so we were thrusting her into a Chair:
We don’t see no Reason for using us so,

For she bad us come hither, and now she Won’t go ;
We’ve earn’d all the Fare, for we both came and knock’d her
Up, as soon as ’twas light, by Advice of the Doctor:
And this is a Job that we often go a’ter
For Ladies that choose to go into the Water.”

Can anyone blame the chairmen for their gruff, forward, and insistent manners? The constant tugs of war among the magistrates, workers, and those of the Quality and rising middle classes who required their services, created many conflicts. The magistrates set down precise distances and costs, which were published in Bath Guides. When the city grew outside of traditional boundaries, the chairmens’ grievances for wanting an increase in fares for lengthier trips, and for the steep uphill treks to Landsdowne, north of the city, fell on deaf ears. 

Comforts of Bath Rowlandson Met museum

Rowland, Comforts of Bath, Plate 12. Notice the bath chair on the left. This hill in front of the Royal Crescent, was a favorite setting for the caricaturist to show the challenges of the sick and aging in getting around Bath’s hilly terrain. Public Domain image. Met Museum.

Steve Pool’s discussion included the chairmen’s rebellion, in which they refused to pay for licenses or carrying anyone to their destinations. In 1794, the magistrates included a higher scale of charges. They ended the discussion by stating that “This sweeping industrial relations victory was made possible through democratic reform societies, Mason trades unionism, and a measure of the chairman’s collective industrial strength.”

As a contemporary listener, I compare today’s low wage workers, whose minimum wages have not changed for two decades, with the chairmen in Bath’s past. The Bath chairmen revolted; today’s minimum workers are revolting as well. History’s past has turned full circle and is still relevant today in terms of liberty and equality!

Only a few more days remain for readers to view the Bath 250 Virtual Conference (see link in the introduction), which, in the 5 workshops I’ve viewed, has been filled with new information. 

Sources:

Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive: Anstey, Christopher, 1724-1805. The new Bath guide: or, memoirs of the B-r-d family. In a series of poetical epistles. [London]: Sold by J. Dodsley; J. Wilson & J. Fell; and J. Almon, London; W. Frederick, at Bath; W. Jackson, at Oxford; T. Fletcher & F. Hodson, at Cambridge; W. Smith, at Dublin; and the booksellers of Bristol, York, and Edinburgh, 1766

Bath: An Adumbration in Rhyme, by John Matthews. A Critical Edition for Readers of Jane Austen. Series Editor: Ben Wiebracht. A book review on Jane Austen’s World blog.

Thomas Rowlandson, Comforts of Bath, Plate 12, Publisher: S. W. Fores (London), January 6, 1798. Public Domain image, Met Museum.

As we investigate the private lives of Regency Women, it’s important to consider money and a woman’s private expenses. If a genteel woman was expected to dress a certain way, do her hair in the latest styles, wear the right shoes and accessories to accentuate her beauty, and care for her own private needs and beauty regimes, how did she pay for everything she needed?

If one of Jane Austen’s heroines (or Jane herself) wanted to purchase something like a bonnet or a ribbon or a new gown, where did she get the money? Who supplied her with money, what was the amount she might have to spend, and how often was it replenished? Let’s find out!

You are very right in supposing how my money would be spent—some of it, at least—my loose cash would certainly be employed in improving my collection of music and books.

Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility
Magazine of Female Fashions of London and Paris, No.21. London Dresses, 1799, Wikipedia Commons.

Pin Money

Pin money, also sometimes referred to as an allowance, was the money that genteel Regency women used for personal expenses, such as dresses, hats, shoes, and other things of that sort. She kept an accounting of it herself and must balance her own budget.

The history of the term “pin money” dates back to the 1500s: “At that time, pin money was a substantial sum that was used for important purchases. The expression is linked to the price of straight pins, once items that were very rare and expensive, and part of the necessary purchases to run a household” (Grammarist). Over time, the term became synonymous with a woman’s personal money.

For the most part, genteel Regency women were entirely reliant on their male relatives for any “loose cash” for their own personal expenses. As an unmarried woman, she would only have what money her father or a close male relative gave to her (or left to her). Once married, she only had what her husband gave to her or what she was entitled to as part of her marriage settlement.

British Sixpence, 1816, Wikipedia Commons.

Jane Austen’s Allowance

We know that Jane Austen herself had a small allowance from her father. In Oliver MacDonough’s Jane Austen: Real and Imagined Worlds, we read this: “Jane had nothing of her own beyond the pin-money allowed her by her father, which was probably only £20 a year.” Cassandra’s annual allowance, as noted in a letter from 28 December 1798 was twenty pounds: “If you will send my father an account of your Washing & Letter expenses, & c, he will send you a draft for the amount of it, as well as for your next quarter [£5, to be paid on 1 January].”

Mrs. Darcy’s Pin Money

Finally, Pride and Prejudice shows us how a generous allowance allowed married women to live in comfort, having enough for their own needs and for the needs of others, either for charitable giving or to help support family members.

We can now read Mrs. Bennet’s famous reaction to Elizabeth’s engagement to Mr. Darcy with even more interest:

Oh! my sweetest Lizzy! how rich and how great you will be! What pin-money, what jewels, what carriages you will have! Jane’s is nothing to it – nothing at all.

Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, Pride and Prejudice, 1995

And it seems that Mrs. Bennet was correct indeed. We see this play out when Lydia writes to Elizabeth at the end of Pride and Prejudice, hoping to get a regular allowance from Elizabeth and Darcy: “As it happened that Elizabeth had much rather not, she endeavoured in her answer to put an end to every intreaty and expectation of the kind.”

However, while the Darcys do not provide the Wickhams with a regular allowance, Elizabeth still kindly send gifts of money on a frequent basis to help Lydia. She gives this money out of her own private funds, which as the text implies, was substantial:

Such relief, however, as it was in her power to afford, by the practice of what might be called economy in her own private expenses, she frequently sent them. . . and whenever [the Wickhams] changed their quarters, either Jane or herself were sure of being applied to for some little assistance towards discharging their bills.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

The Love of Money

Money mattered greatly in the lives of Jane Austen’s Regency women. Having “loose cash” didn’t just provide for bonnets and gowns; it also provided for the safety and protection of several of Austen’s female characters. Money could be used as a means of control or generosity. It could limit a woman or give her greater freedom.

Join me again next month as we delve further into Regency Women: Money Matters and look closely at several instances where Austen uses a lady’s personal money (or lack thereof) as a clever plot device.


RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog and Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine. She is the bestselling author of The Anne of Green Gables Devotional: A Chapter-By-Chapter Companion for Kindred Spirits and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Her newest book The Little Women Devotional is now available for pre-order and releases December 2021. You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.


Bath 250: A Virtual Conference to Mark The 250th Anniversary of the New Assembly Rooms at Bath – 29th & 30th September 2021

Rowlandson's black and white image of Bath's Ballroom

Streaming videos of all panels are now online for the next 2 wks, courtesy of @mbayliss90. They are:

 
Welcome & keynote from
 
 @Hannah_Greig : Having a Ball in Eighteenth Century England stream.liv.ac.uk/kmeb58mc
 
Panel 1: Assembly Rooms and Before; stream.liv.ac.uk/zunj9zrc Speakers: Cathryn Spence; David Hughes; Rupert Goulding
 
Panel 2; Polite & Impolite Bath; stream.liv.ac.uk/nfzd3vuf Speakers: Rachael Johnson, 

Panel 3; Women’s Experiences of Bath; stream.liv.ac.uk/g8mhfnyv Speakers: @CoffeeBookGirl, @Smudge2492, Mark Philp

Panel 4; Sociability, Celebrity & Politics; stream.liv.ac.uk/2wx54v8c Speakers: @ehchalus@GeorgianLords James Peate, Michael McMullen

Panel 5; Performance; stream.liv.ac.uk/fddhsqk4 Speakers: Ann Hinchcliffe, Matthew Spring, @BreeRob_Kirk Rhian Davies

Panel 6; Roundtable & Q&A Bath Assembly Rooms – The Next 250 years; stream.liv.ac.uk/23e8k8v8 Speakers: @OliverJWCox@OlivetteOtele, Tom Boden, @RegionalHistory

Panel 7; Day 2 Welcome; Bath town; stream.liv.ac.uk/28nxdrnn Speakers: Kevin Grieves, Amy Frost

Panel 8; Bath and Beyond; stream.liv.ac.uk/phncw99k Speakers: @SophieVasset Theophile Bonjour. @smellis_naylor#twitterstorians

Remember: These streaming videos are available for two weeks from the date of this post: 10/8/2021.

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Thank you, Prof Elaine Chalus and the University of Liverpool for posting these links on our Jane Austen and Her Regency World Facebook Group and making the links available to our followers.

In Addition:

In reference to Bath, I also refer you to our recent post by Dr. Ben Wiebracht about his online high school’s class work and publication on Bath: An Adumbration in Rhyme by John Matthews.

Jane Austen: Art Critic

Inquiring Readers: Who knew? Jane Austen not only viewed works of art when visiting London, in one letter she spoke particularly well of a painting by Benjamin West, a successful American transplant in that city, whose major patron was King George III..

Austen’s Opinion About “Christ Rejected”

During a first visit to her Brother Henry’s new house in Hans Place, Austen wrote a letter to her dear friend Martha Lloyd. Whenever Jane visited London, she attended parties and balls, plays, and concerts. She also went shopping in a major way, and brought a list of items that friends and relatives wanted her to purchase for them. In this letter (109, as listed by Deirdre Le Faye in her Fourth Edition of Jane Austen’s Letters, and dated September 2, 1814) Jane mentions (among many other things) a painting she’d recently viewed.

Benjamin_West_-_Christ_rejected

Jane Austen was taken by the image of Christ in this painting. Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

“I have seen West’s famous Painting, & prefer it to anything of the kind I ever saw before. I do not know that it is reckoned superior to his “Healing in the Temple”, but it has gratified me much more, & indeed is the first representation of our Savior which ever at all contented me. His “Rejection by the Elders”, is the subject.–I want to have You & Cassandra see it.”

Jane was writing about “Christ Rejected by the Jews”, now hanging at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1814, when this enormous and complicated painting was exhibited from June to late fall, and when Austen was visiting Henry, it hung in the “former” Royal Academy at 125 Pall Mall. Visitors were given a 3-page description of the work, which was filled with information about each of the characters in the painting. In the past, panoramas, dioramas, and tableaus, like those created by Emma Hamilton, were popular Georgian entertainment. 

Austen mentions that not only did this painting gratify her, but that this was the “first representation of our Savior which ever at all contented me.” She wanted her best friend, Martha, and her beloved sister, Cassandra, to view the painting in person. Ellen Moody in Reveries Under the Sign of Austen, Two mentions that this was: 

“A highly unusual passage for Jane Austen: she has been talking about what tastes she likes and by association (how the letters proceed) she moves to discourse about solemn religious painting done in the grand historical style. I suggest Martha liked these or mentioned them in her letter. For Jane’s part, in this sort of picture what she likes best is Christ Rejected. Martha seems to have wanted to know if Christ Healing the Sick is considered superior — hinting perhaps that she, Martha, preferred it.”

In fact, Moody states that this is the first time the reader reads explicitly religious language from Austen, when she mentions “Our savior.” Food for thought from a clergyman’s devoted & religious daughter.

Who Was Benjamin West?

Benjamin West hardly raised a blip in my Art History courses, although he was a prominent painter during his life and in Great Britain. His paintings have not stood the test of time, but during his heyday, he was King George III’s favorite historical painter. And, so, when he moved to London in 1763, he established his atelier and metier within 5 years of his move to that great city. King George’s patronage ensured West’s success. He became the second President of the Royal Academy of Arts in London from 1792 until his death in 1820 at 81. His enormous neoclassical paintings do not make my heart soar, although I find his portraits, especially his self-portraits, interesting and masterful. (Hover cursor over the portraits for details.)

Austen’s mention of “Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple”

This painting was not Austen’s favorite of the two, however, its immense popularity drew crowds. It has an interesting and convoluted history. From Jane’s excerpt in her letter, she found the latter painting of ‘Christ Rejected” more meaningful. West, however, was so attached to this painting that he created a second version that he donated to a Pennsylvania Hospital.  Interestingly

christ healing

Christ Healing. Small image from Portraits in Revolution

“On its [first] completion in 1811 it was exhibited in London to immense crowds, and was subsequently purchased by the British Institution for 3,000 guineas — the largest sum ever paid for a modern work.”  

And so West painted another version, with an “improved composition”, which he sent to the Pennsylvania Hospital (where it still resides, with this partial  note:

“Mr. West bequeaths the said picture to the Hospital in the joint names of himself and his wife, the late Elizabeth West, as their gratuitous offering and as a humble record of their patriotic affection for the State of Pennsylvania, in which they first inhaled the vital air — thus to perpetuate in her native city of Philadelphia the sacred memory of that amiable lady who was his companion in life for fifty years and three months.

I could not find a public domain, copy right free  image of this painting. This link leads to a high quality image of “Christ Healing the Sick.” and information about the painting.

Conclusion:

Austen’s letters add so much flavor to our knowledge about her life, thoughts, and novels. I highly recommend that all Austen devotees read every letter that has been printed, starting with Deirdre Le Faye’s masterwork, the compilation of Jane Austen’s Letters.

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