I’m on the Austen Authors blog today, talking about walks in the Kent countryside with Lizzy Bennet.
Please join me there by clicking on the Austen Authors icon below!
I always marvel over the creativity some people have in expressing Jane Austen’s beloved novels as pieces of art.
On Etsy I found these cuff-style bracelets designed around Mr. Darcy’s declaration of love to Elizabeth Bennet in which he uttered those famous words:
You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
The first style is made of brass with the novel’s text serving as a background to Darcy’s famous words, which are overlaid in red.
The second bracelet is also in brass, but the text is set against a dark background, and Mr. Darcy’s declaration isn’t highlighted like it is in the first style.
I have to say, I like them both for different reasons. The darker one seems much more subtle, which I like; but I do love the way Darcy’s words are captured in red script in the first style.
Even after I compare them side-by-side, I still can’t decide which I like better.
What do you think? Which bracelet would you choose? You can click on any of the images to see more views of each style on Etsy.
I’m working on a new story; it’s a variation on Pride and Prejudice that centers on the mayhem caused by Lydia’s elopement with Wickham.
Some of the scenes will take place in the London home of the Gardiners in Cheapside.
Since my memory and imagination are sparked by visual cues, I’ve collected quite a few images of Cheapside for inspiration. Today I’ll share some of those images with you..
For orientation, Cheapside is located in the City of London (not to be confused with London. Yes, London and the City of London are two different places.).
Cheapside is located in the heart of The City. For hundreds of years it’s been the country’s main center of commerce and trade. In fact, it gained its name from the old Saxon word Chepe, meaning market or bargain.
Street names like Poultry, Milk, Pudding, Ironmonger, Bread, and Shoemaker serve as reminders of the area’s old market origins.
Geographically, Cheapside covers less than a mile but more tradesmen were packed into the length of this street than any other avenue in the City of London.
Mr. Gardiner was engaged in trade in Cheapside, while his home was located on Gracechurch Street. The Gardiners lived within blocks of London Bridge on the east end of The City. I like to imagine they may have had a very good view of the Tower of London from their windows.
The Gardiner home would have been within walking distance of the center of England’s economic power.
Nearby was Mansion House (the residence of the Lord Mayor of London), the Bank of England, the Treasury, Custom House, and Royal Exchange.
Beside great houses of commerce, Cheapside was famous for its retail establishments. Some of the best shopping to be had in Jane Austen’s time was in Cheapside.
From hat-makers to perfumeries, stationers to pianofortes, time-pieces to cottons and silks—the finest merchandise could be found in the warehouses and shops at Cheapside.
Even on Gracechurch Street, where the Gardiners lived, shops and businesses of all sorts mingled with family homes.
It’s no wonder, then, that merchants in Cheapside were extremely successful, and Mr. Gardiner was no exception.
Mr. Gardiner supported his family very well, indeed. Jane Austen described the Gardiners as well-bred and elegant. His income allowed him to host parties at the theater, while Mrs. Gardiner was free to squire Elizabeth, Sir William Lucas, and Maria Lucas through a day of shopping in London.
Mr. Gardiner’s business was sound enough to allow him to take time off on a fairly regular basis. He and his family made frequent trips to visit the Bennets for as long as a week at a time.
And in March 1812 the Gardiners invited Elizabeth to join them on a lengthy “pleasure tour” of the Lakes. In the end, unexpected business concerns forced Mr. Gardiner to postpone their travels until July of that year, but they still intended to spend a month touring Derbyshire.
I have to admit Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are two of my favorite Pride and Prejudice characters. Mr. Gardiner is an effective foil for his sister Mrs. Bennet, and Mrs. Gardiner is a loving and trusted confidante to the two eldest Bennet sisters, Jane and Elizabeth.
I’m looking forward to writing about the Gardiners’ home in Cheapside and the many visitors they receive there. (Hint: one of their callers will be a very proud young man from Derbyshire.)
Stay tuned for more . . .
When I was a kid in grade school the best day ever was the day my teacher distributed the Weekly Reader Book Club catalog to the class.
It was a four-page listing of paperback books children could purchase. For me (growing up in a family that didn’t believe in giving children an allowance) that meant I had to earn the money to buy books. I did extra chores for my parents and neighbors, like pulling weeds for a quarter and sweeping out the garage for fifty cents. I essentially volunteered to do any job that no one else wanted to do.
But come Weekly Reader day, I had money to spend, and that’s what mattered.
I have vivid memories of taking my Weekly Reader catalog home and studying it very carefully. My money was hard-earned, and there was only so much of it to go around. I was intent on making the best possible book choices.
Once I decided on my purchases, I filled out the order slip, counted my change into an envelope, which I sealed and wrote my name on, and handed everything—order form and envelope—to my teacher the next day.
Now that I think about it, ordering the books was easy. The difficult part was waiting for the books to arrive. It’s hard to describe how exciting it was for me two weeks later to see the box sitting on my teacher’s desk, knowing she was going to open it at the end of the day and deliver my books to me at my desk.
My books. Those two words were powerful to me. I loved the idea of owning books of my very own. Books I didn’t have to return to a library; books that didn’t come from a second–hand store. The books my teacher delivered to me were new and beautiful and had never been read by anyone else before. They were just for me.
That experience—repeated over and over again through my elementary and middle school years—firmly established my life-long love for books and reading. The books I bought as a child became my treasures. Now, as an adult, I still have many of the first books I purchased through the Weekly Reader Book Club.
One of those books was Pride and Prejudice, which I bought when I was 12 years old. Like all lovers of Jane Austen, I now have multiple copies of the novel, but my 1966 Weekly Reader edition is still my go-to copy.
On the inside front cover is my signature scrawled in a twelve-year-old’s hand; and if I set the book down on its spine, the pages now fall naturally open to my favorite parts of the book.
My first copy of Sense and Sensibility also found its way into my home library through the Weekly Reader program. It was Sense and Sensibility that sealed my love for Jane Austen. It, too, is well worn; the cover and most of the pages came loose from the spine decades ago, and I have to keep them in place by tying the book with a ribbon. Still, this version remains my favorite reading copy of S&S.
It’s interesting to me that my love for Jane Austen’s novels was sparked at the same time I first realized my love for books and reading in general. They were simultaneous occurrences, and both combined into a single desire to build my own library of books that I would treasure my entire life.
What about you? Did you buy your own books from a school program like the Weekly Reader?
Do you remember the first book you ever bought? Please share the name of the book in the comments section. Do you still have the book today?
200 years ago today, Jane Austen passed away. She left behind an enduring legacy of much-loved novels and correspondence that—to this day—still captivate readers and inspire writers.
Around the globe today are celebrations of Jane Austen’s life and works. If you cannot attend an event in person, I hope you will join one of the many observances taking place on social media today.
On Twitter you can follow hashtag #janeausten200
On Facebook you can go to one of these pages:
You can also read a blog post by Kyra Kramer on AustenAuthors.com. Kyra’s post is a lovely and thoughtful tribute to Jane Austen’s life.
Jane Austen’s final resting place is in Winchester Cathedral. Her memorial stone makes no mention of her novels, but today we celebrate them along with her life, and thank her for 200 years of enjoyment and inspiration her books have given us all.
I’ve been fascinated by English nobility for as long as I can remember. And like most writers who pen stories set in the era of Regency England, I’ve made a study of the peerage with its ranks and titles, hierarchies and presidencies.
That explains why—whenever I read the opening paragraphs of Jane Austen’s Persuasion—I feel a strong connection with Sir Walter Elliot and his preoccupation with his own book about the baronetage:
Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed. This was the page at which the favourite volume always opened:
ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH HALL.
“Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester, by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, November 5, 1789; Mary, born November 20, 1791.”
There are plenty of instances in Persuasion where Austen gives readers reasons to dislike Sir Walter Elliot for his arrogance, or holds him up to ridicule for his vanity; but I have to agree with Sir Walter on one thing: I love a good book about the peerage.
Several years ago, I found my own copy of a book like Sir Walter’s Baronetage, and it’s one of my prized possessions.
In a used book store in southern California I found a battered 1806 edition of Debrett’s Peerage of England, Scotland and Ireland. Here’s the title page:
It’s a thick book, weighing in at over 400 pages of very tiny type; but it contains everything you’d ever want to know about the hereditary peers of Great Britain and Ireland in the early Nineteenth Century.
The book names each peer by rank, his wife (if married), his children (detailing whether they’re alive or deceased), and the name of the peer’s heir.
It even includes illustrations of the major peers’ coats of arms, and their mottoes. For example, the Marquis of Downshire’s motto is:
“Either attempt not, or accomplish.”
That sounds a lot like Yoda’s “Do or do not; there is no try,” doesn’t it? Here’s a page showing some of the coats of arms for English Marquisses:
And like Sir Walter Elliot, I enjoy browsing through the pages of the book whenever I have an idle moment.
In my novel Mary and the Captain, my copy of Debrett’s played a pivotal role in the story. Mary Bennet used the entries in Debrett’s to figure out the identity of a boy apprentice she and Captain Robert Bingley (Caroline and Charles’ brother) rescue from a cruel taskmaster.
But I don’t want to give you the impression that there’s nothing to Debrett’s but a long list of peers, their ancestors, and heirs.
My 1806 edition includes a handy explanation of heraldic terms. I’ve spent many enjoyable hours poring over these pages with a magnifying glass trying to reason out for myself what each symbol meant on a given coat of arms.
Every little detail on a coat of arms means something. For someone like me who enjoys solving puzzles, interpreting the arms shown in the book has been a fun challenge using the illustrations of terms.
Like Sir Walter, my Debrett’s has given me “occupation for an idle hour” and I’m still discovering fascinating new bits of information in its pages; like this entry for Elizabeth Rawdon, Baroness Hungerford:
What?!? I was pretty startled to see a woman listed among the barons, since all my research showed noble titles were passed from male to male in each generation. But with Lady Hungerford’s entry, I charged off on a new flurry of research to figure out how it was possible that a woman inherited a baronetcy.
I’m still working my way through the book, and with each reading I seem to discover new revelations that fascinate me. That’s why I can whole-heartedly agree with Sir Walter: poring over the pages of a book about the peerage never fails to hold my interest.
When it comes to “Pride and Prejudice” on the big and small screens, I’ve watched every available version, from “Lizzie Bennet’s Diary” to the this year’s “Zombies” to the 1940 Hollywood film starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. Of all the different interpretations, the 1995 BBC series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth remains my favorite.
What makes that version different from all others? Simple: its stars’ winning performances, lots of period details, and the way in which it stays true to the original novel—except, of course, for one particular scene.
You know what I’m talking about … THAT scene, where Darcy dives into the lake at Pemberley wearing a loose tunic, only to emerge soaking wet with the fabric clinging to his body.
The scene caused an immediate sensation when the series first aired, and Darcy’s reputation as a brooding and misunderstood romantic hero instantly morphed into that of a brooding, misunderstood, and hot romantic hero.
For those familiar with Jane Austen’s novel, there was just one problem: the scene never happened. Jane Austen never wrote about Darcy getting wet and turning into a heartthrob for women everywhere.
And yet, we love that scene and appreciate it as part of the way the BBC version showed Elizabeth’s evolving attraction to Darcy.
In fact, that Regency wet tee-shirt moment has made something of a celebrity of the shirt itself; and if you’ve ever wanted to see the real thing—that famous tunic worn by Collin Firth in the 1995 BBC series of “Pride and Prejudice”—you will soon have your chance.
Beginning August 6 the shirt will be on display as part of an exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C.
Titled “Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity,” the display examines the staying power of Austen and Shakespeare, with displays of fashions, movie adaptations, and milestone events that illustrate why these famous authors are still popular in the 21st Century.
Darcy’s shirt will be front and center at the exhibition, although it will be under glass to keep it safe. As one of the curators remarked, “We will be giving the Folger some Windex, to be used in what we anticipate will be a daily wiping-down of lipstick marks.”
The exhibit opens Saturday, August 6 and runs through November 6. Click here for information on times and tickets.
Enjoy the exhibit and your chance to see the shirt that helped us all fall a little bit more in love with Mr. Darcy.
I love puzzles of all kinds: jigsaw puzzles that overtake my dining table, Sudoku puzzles of the fiendishly difficult variety, and those wordy logic puzzles where I have to figure out how many bakers got off the train in Philadelphia.
Every once in a while I like to create puzzles, too, and this Austen-themed word search puzzle is for you!
The puzzle contains 24 terms Jane Austen used to describe Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park.
Pencils ready? Enjoy!
I’m about half-way through the first draft of my next book (tentatively titled The Company She Keeps). In one of the early chapters there’s a ball at the home of the fictional Lady Pangborn. You may have noticed that balls, dressing up and beautiful ladies dancing with handsome gentlemen are staples of the Regency romance. They’re also a few of the reasons I enjoy reading and writing the genre.
So when it comes time for me to write said ballroom scene, it’s pretty important that I know what I’m talking about. The truth of the matter is that I really don’t know the difference between a quadrille or a country dance. I grew up in the twentieth century, where the last dance I can remember that had a name was the Macarena.
As an avid viewer of Dancing with the Stars I can recognize a Waltz and an Argentinian Tango, and several other modern ballroom dances. Each dance has certain required elements, but at the same time, dancers have a broad leeway for interpreting the dance in their own way.
Not so during the Regency. Ballroom dances during the Regency were highly proscribed. With the exception of the Waltz, most dances were based on regimented formations and intricate stepping patterns.
The quadrille was just such a dance. The quadrille was all about the dancers forming precise figures; and each figure was specific to the tune being played. Quadrilles were long, difficult dances. Practicing at home or with a dancing master was a necessity to ensure one knew all the steps, figures and changes. Quadrilles were popular but woe to anyone who missed a step. The caricature below shows dancers desperately trying to master Le Moulinet (The Reel) so they can dance it flawlessly in the ballroom:
In Regency romances the purpose of the ballroom dance is much more than just an opportunity for characters to move to the music. Jane Austen herself set the standard for what ballroom scenes should accomplish when she wrote the exchange between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield ball:
They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with: “It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some sort of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”
He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.
“Very well. That reply will do for the present. Perhaps by and by I may observe that private balls are much pleasanter than public ones. But now we may be silent.”
But Darcy had no intention of being silent, and what followed (as seen in the clip below from the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice) is one of the finest thrust-and-parry romantic duels in literature.
Once I finish my first draft of my book, I’m going to pull out all my research notes and reread everything I can get my hands on about Regency dances before I go back and edit the ballroom scene. My goal is to write that scene as accurately as possible, including any descriptions of the dance itself. But secretly, deep down, I’m pretty thankful that we don’t dance Quadrilles and Cotillons anymore. If we did, my presence in a ballroom would be more like Mary Bennet’s than Elizabeth’s. I can barely get through the Macarena.
In a previous post I wrote about one of my favorite Jane Austen novels, Lady Susan; and lamented the fact that it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I think that’s about to change. A new movie, based on the novel, will hit theaters in May.
For some reason the movie version has been named “Love and Friendship” (which I think is a little confusing, since its an adaptation of Lady Susan, not Jane Austen’s book Love and Freindship). But who am I to quibble with the title when the movie trailer clearly shows the film has everything I love in a Jane Austen adaptation?
Kate Beckinsale makes a perfect Lady Susan; deliciously snarky, cunningly manipulative, and vastly entertaining. Add in gorgeous costumes, authentic period settings, and witty dialogue, and I’m ready to stand in line for a theater ticket.
It looks like I’m not the only one who can’t wait to see the movie. Vogue included “Love and Friendship” in their recent list of 16 movies you should see this spring. And Slashfilm said it was laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Here’s to you, Lady Susan. See you in May.
Brenda S. Cox
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