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Your Sunday Austen Meditation

January 5, 2014

Church of Austenology This week’s lesson is taken from Northanger Abbey, Volume I, Chapter XIV.

They determined on walking round Beechen Cliff, that noble hill whose beautiful verdure and hanging coppice render it so striking an object from almost every opening in Bath.

“I never look at it,” said Catherine, as they walked along the side of the river, “without thinking of the south of France.”

“You have been abroad then?” said Henry, a little surprized.

“Oh! no, I only mean what I have read about. It always puts me in mind of the country that Emily and her father travelled through, in the ‘Mysteries of Udolpho.’ But you never read novels, I dare say?”

“Why not?”

“Because they are not clever enough for you — gentlemen read better books.”

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. I have read all Mrs. Radcliffe’s works, and most of them with great pleasure. The Mysteries of Udolpho, when I had once begun it, I could not lay down again; — I remember finishing it in two days — my hair standing on end the whole time.”

“Yes,” added Miss Tilney, “and I remember that you undertook to read it aloud to me, and that when I was called away for only five minutes to answer a note, instead of waiting for me, you took the volume into the Hermitage-walk, and I was obliged to stay till you had finished it.”

“Thank you, Eleanor; — a most honourable testimony. You see, Miss Morland, the injustice of your suspicions. Here was I, in my eagerness to get on, refusing to wait only five minutes for my sister, breaking the promise I had made of reading it aloud, and keeping her in suspense at a most interesting part, by running away with the volume, which, you are to observe, was her own, particularly her own. I am proud when I reflect on it, and I think it must establish me in your good opinion.”

“I am very glad to hear it indeed, and now I shall never be ashamed of liking Udolpho myself. But I really thought before, young men despised novels amazingly.”

“It is amazingly; it may well suggest amazement if they do — for they read nearly as many as women. I myself have read hundreds and hundreds. Do not imagine that you can cope with me in a knowledge of Julias and Louisas. If we proceed to particulars, and engage in the never-ceasing inquiry of ‘Have you read this?’ and ‘Have you read that?’ I shall soon leave you as far behind me as — what shall I say? — l want an appropriate simile. — as far as your friend Emily herself left poor Valancourt when she went with her aunt into Italy. Consider how many years I have had the start of you. I had entered on my studies at Oxford, while you were a good little girl working your sampler at home!”

It would be well to remember that it is not only young girls who read novels. Here endeth the lesson.

P.S. Here is an interesting (for certain values of interesting) essay in Persuasions On-Line about Henry Tilney, reading, and gender. Don’t jump to conclusions from the title–read the whole thing. But we were disappointed that the author passed on the common misapprehension that after Henry Tilney found Catherine Morland outside her mother’s room, she cried as she ran because he was mean to her. She cried because he had made her examine her conscience, and she was ashamed of herself. It’s right there in the book, you know. “They had reached the end of the gallery, and with tears of shame she ran off to her own room.”

Jane on Jeopardy

January 5, 2014

This article popped up in our Google Alerts and made us quite cross, for several reasons.

Jerry Slowik came in third place Thursday on “Jeopardy!”, but the 28-year-old from Arlington Heights still took home more than $122,000 from his five wins on the television game show.

Thursday’s show was rough for a number of reasons, Slowik said after the episode aired. He said a heavy lunch and difficult categories including “Jane Austen” and “Tunnels” were enough to put him off his game, leading to a finish in last place.

Sadly, that was the first episode of Jeopardy we had missed in a several days, so we had already seen several of Mr. Slowik’s wins. While he was knowledgeable, he was up against other knowledgeable people and won partly because of strategic betting (always important on Jeopardy) and also, seemingly, because he was one of those who was quick to hit the button and ring in first to answer. This is not to discount his wins at all–he did very well, obviously, taking home six figures. So needless to say, we were astonished to read a claim that he found Jane Austen soooo harrrrrrd. (Here are the questions from the game, courtesy of the fabulous J! Archive. At the time of the writing of this post, the Double Jeopardy questions, which apparently include the Jane Austen questions, were not yet posted.)

We were also bummed that we missed it because it is the only time within our memory that Jane Austen has had an entire category to herself on Jeopardy–we’ve seen individual questions before, even Final Jeopardy, but never a whole category, and we were all curiosity about the actual puzzles.

Then Alert Janeite Lisa sent us video of the clearly fabulous, one-of-us Sarah Olson running the category!

And then Alex Trebek had to go and ruin it with his crack about “aren’t you glad you read ALL THOSE JANE AUSTEN BOOKS when YOU WERE YOUNG*?” Wait a minute… she’s still young! So you mean when she was a schoolgirl, because who but a schoolgirl who was forced to by an evil English teacher would read Jane Austen? Do we have to pull out the SNL skit? (language and rudeness warning)

Don’t mess with the Janeites, Alex. Just don’t.

*or did he say “when you were a tot?” Which is worse. Geez, Alex.

Around the Web

January 5, 2014

Many of you no doubt have already seen these posts, but we found them interesting and wanted to share!

Deborah Yaffe sent us this article and begged us to turn the Cluebat upon it; we planned to oblige, but with one thing and another, never got to it; and then Deborah did it herself, so thoroughly we found it impossible to add much more.

(Though we will add: in what benighted universe are William Collins and John Thorpe leading men?)

A couple of days ago, Austen paraliterature author Alexa Adams posted on Facebook that an Individual posted (on an old post and not really on-topic, which around here we call spam) a comment about his book claiming that Jane Austen’s novels were really written by…wait for it…Eliza de Feuillide. Such a claim is completely silly, of course, but Janine Barchas wrote a guest post for the Jane Austen in Vermont blog reviewing the book and refuting the Individual’s claims. It’s quite thorough. Go check it out.

In which Jane Austen converses with the King under the Mountain

December 25, 2013

jane_and_thorin

Thorin Oakenshield: Miss Austen?

Jane Austen: Yes, your majesty?

Thorin: You could just call me Thorin, you know, and I’ll call you Jane.

Jane: You shall call me Miss Austen, your majesty.

Thorin: *mutters* deep cleansing breath…be cool, Oakenshield, be cool…

Jane: I beg your pardon?

Thorin: Nothing, madam. Only that I thought, since we shall be sharing such close quarters…

Jane: Yes?

Thorin: Well….

Jane: Yes?

Thorin: Would you perhaps like to see my large Elven sword?

Jane: Would you perhaps like to have my quill pen inserted into your ear with extreme prejudice?

Thorin: *snicker* Do you mean with extreme PRIDE and prejudice? *snort*

Jane: *sighs loudly*

Thorin: *mutters* damn damn damn damn…

Jane: I beg your pardon?

Thorin: Nothing, madam.

Jane: Mmm.

Some videos for your Christmas entertainment

December 25, 2013

First, a preview of yet another version of P&P1995–this time, a Blu-ray edition with extras. Sadly, can’t embed it, apparently, but you can pop over to the Entertainment Weekly site to watch.

In addition to the classic story, the new version will include extras such as a featurette celebrating the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s most popular novel, and two featurettes exploring love, courtship, money, and social class in early 19th-century England.

Secondly, something rather more earthy. Heather L. brought this to our attention on Facebook–we had seen it before but forgot about it and it made us laugh, so we are sharing. The language is earthy, but bleeped, and the literary analysis excellent. Jane be slingin’ irony all day, e’er day.

Enjoy, and have a good day!

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

December 16, 2013

theletterI’m a little late in the day with my remembrances, but they are nonetheless heartfelt.

For these birthday posts, I usually post a quotation that has directly to do with Jane herself. This year, I had a hard time thinking of something that felt satisfactory. I’ve long felt (and perhaps this is projection) that Jane, as an author, would consider her work her best remembrance. Thus, I’m sharing the passage that turned me from a casual Jane Austen reader to a lifelong fan. It’s not hyperbole to say that it changed my life. From Persuasion, Vol. II, Ch. XI:

Mrs. Croft left them, and Captain Wentworth, having sealed his letter with great rapidity, was indeed ready, and had even a hurried, agitated air, which shewed impatience to be gone. Anne know not how to understand it. She had the kindest “Good morning, God bless you!” from Captain Harville, but from him not a word, nor a look! He had passed out of the room without a look!

She had only time, however, to move closer to the table where he had been writing, when footsteps were heard returning; the door opened, it was himself. He begged their pardon, but he had forgotten his gloves, and instantly crossing the room to the writing table, he drew out a letter from under the scattered paper, placed it before Anne with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a time, and hastily collecting his gloves, was again out of the room, almost before Mrs. Musgrove was aware of his being in it: the work of an instant!

The revolution which one instant had made in Anne, was almost beyond expression. The letter, with a direction hardly legible, to “Miss A. E.–,” was evidently the one which he had been folding so hastily. While supposed to be writing only to Captain Benwick, he had been also addressing her! On the contents of that letter depended all which this world could do for her. Anything was possible, anything might be defied rather than suspense. Mrs. Musgrove had little arrangements of her own at her own table; to their protection she must trust, and sinking into the chair which he had occupied, succeeding to the very spot where he had leaned and written, her eyes devoured the following words:

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? 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. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in

F. W.

“I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”

Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from.

It’s been some twenty years since I read it, and I haven’t recovered from it yet. Thanks, Jane. I hope all the love from Janeites all over the world today reached you beyond the ether.

Quotable

December 5, 2013

wpid-368916.jpg“You’ll be fascinated to learn (from me that hates novels) that I finally got round to Jane Austen and went out of my mind over Pride & Prejudice which I can’t bring myself to bring back to the library till you find me a copy of my own.” – Letter from Helene Hanff to Frank Doel at Marks & Co., Booksellers, May 11, 1952, as quoted in the book 84, Charing Cross Road, which if you haven’t read you should do so immediately

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