Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cassandra Austen

Jane Austen's sister Cassandra was Jane's lifelong companion. I think the following letter gives us an idea of the strength of the affection and love that the sisters shared and of Cassandra's grief when Jane tragically died at the very early age of 41. Cassandra wrote to her niece Fanny Knight from Winchester where the Austen sisters had been seeking medical help for Jane's illness. If you can read this letter with a dry eye you are of a stronger constitution than I am!

The silhouette is thought to be of a young Cassandra.

July 18th 1817 Winchester

Doubly dear to me now for her dear sake whom we have lost. She did love you most sincerely, and never shall I forget the proofs of love you gave her during her illness in writing those kind, amusing letters at a time when I know your feelings would have dictated so different a style. Take the only reward I can give you in the assurance that your benevolent purpose was answered; you did contribute to her enjoyment.

Even your last letter afforded pleasure. I merely cut the seal and gave it to her; she opened it and read it herself, afterwards she gave it to me to read, and then talked to me a little and not uncheerfully of its contents, but there was then a languor about her which prevented her taking the same interest in anything she had been used to do.

Since Tuesday evening, when her complaint returned, there was a visible change, she slept more and much more comfortably; indeed, during the last eight-and-forty hours she was more asleep than awake. Her looks altered and she fell away, but I perceived no material diminution of strength, and, though I was then hopeless of a recovery, I had no suspicion how rapidly my loss was approaching.

I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well -- not better than she deserved, but I am conscious that my affection for her made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others; and I can acknowledge, more than as a general principle, the justice of the Hand which has struck this blow.

You know me too well to be at all afraid that I should suffer materially from my feelings; I am perfectly conscious of the extent of my irreparable loss, but I am not at all overpowered and very little indisposed, nothing but what a short time, with rest and change of air, will remove. I thank God that I was enabled to attend her to the last, and amongst my many causes of self-reproach I have not to add any wilful neglect of her comfort.

She felt herself to be dying about half-an-hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half-hour was her struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered, though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: "God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!" Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible.

I hope I do not break your heart, my dearest Fanny, by these particulars; I mean to afford you gratification whilst I am relieving my own feelings. I could not write so to anybody else; indeed you are the only person I have written to at all, excepting your grandmamma -- it was to her, not your Uncle Charles, I wrote on Friday.

Immediately after dinner on Thursday I went into the town to do an errand which your dear aunt was anxious about. I returned about a quarter before six and found her recovering from faintness and oppression; she got so well as to be able to give me a minute account of her seizure, and when the clock struck six she was talking quietly to me.

I cannot say how soon afterwards she was seized again with the same faintness, which was followed by the sufferings she could not describe; but Mr. Lyford had been sent for, had applied something to give her ease, and she was in a state of quiet insensibility by seven o'clock at the latest. From that time till half-past four, when she ceased to breathe, she scarcely moved a limb, so that we have every reason to think, with gratitude to the Almighty, that her sufferings were over. A slight motion of the head with every breath remained till almost the last. I sat close to her with a pillow in my lap to assist in supporting her head, which was almost off the bed, for six hours; fatigue made me then resign my place to Mrs. J. A. for two hours and a-half, when I took it again, and in about an hour more she breathed her last.

I was able to close her eyes myself, and it was a great gratification to me to render her those last services. There was nothing convulsed which gave the idea of pain in her look; on the contrary, but for the continual motion of the head she gave one the idea of a beautiful statue, and even now, in her coffin, there is such a sweet, serene air over her countenance as is quite pleasant to contemplate.

This day, my dearest Fanny, you have had the melancholy intelligence, and I know you suffer severely, but I likewise know that you will apply to the fountain-head for consolation, and that our merciful God is never deaf to such prayers as you will offer.

The last sad ceremony is to take place on Thursday morning; her dear remains are to be deposited in the cathedral. It is a satisfaction to me to think that they are to lie in a building she admired so much; her precious soul, I presume to hope, reposes in a far superior mansion. May mine one day be re-united to it!

Your dear papa, your Uncle Henry, and Frank and Edwd. Austen, instead of his father, will attend. I hope they will none of them suffer lastingly from their pious exertions. The ceremony must be over before ten o'clock, as the cathedral service begins at that hour, so that we shall be at home early in the day, for there will be nothing to keep us here afterwards.

Your Uncle James came to us yesterday, and is gone home to-day. Uncle H. goes to Chawton to-morrow morning; he has given every necessary direction here, and I think his company there will do good. He returns to us again on Tuesday evening.

I did not think to have written a long letter when I began, but I have found the employment draw me on, and I hope I shall have been giving you more pleasure than pain. Remember me kindly to Mrs. J. Bridges (I am so glad she is with you now), and give my best love to Lizzie and all the others.

I am, my dearest Fanny,
Most affectionately yours,

I have said nothing about those at Chawton, because I am sure you hear from your papa.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Becoming Jane blog quiz

Over at Becoming Jane Blogspotthey have a quiz to celebrate a whole year of blogging! Details from their blog and how to win a dvd of Becoming Jane below:

Happy Anniversary for Becoming Jane Fansite and all of us! One year young, and lots of things to do to explore the chaste love and camaraderie between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy!

And we’ve decided to extend the deadline of BJ Anniversary Quiz to 31 May 2008, to give more people chance to participate in our becoming. That’s it: Saturday, 31 May 2008 at 24:00 GMT (the midnight between Saturday and Sunday). It is equivalent to Saturday, 31 May 2008 at 8pm for New York, USA. It is also equivalent to Sunday, 1 June 2008 GMT+1 for UK, GMT+8 for central Indonesia time, GMT+10 for Sydney Australia, and GMT+12 for New Zealand.

How to join? Just answer the two questions down here and send the answers to Icha (tara_parvati@yahoo.com) AND Rachel (rachkingston@aol.com). DON’T reply to the comment section, unless you want your answers copied by others. The winner will be announced on 2 June 2008 at the latest and he/she will get a BJ DVD shipped to his/her address wherever that is (thanks to Michelle Molloy for the DVD donation!).

Now the questions:

1. What was Jane Austen’s last letter that directly referred to Tom Lefroy? (Answer style: Letter Date Month Year)

2. Choose two places of BJ movie locations that have association with Tom Lefroy

a. Carrigglas Manor

b. King's Inn, Dublin

c. Mt. Jerome cemetery

d. Higginsbrook, Co. Meath

e. Bray, Co. Wicklow

Don’t forget to give us your full name (real one, for postage) and postal address (including ZIP code) along with the answers.

Have fun with the easy quiz, and thanks a lot for your support! We’re one year young, and we can’t do it without you!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Walking on the Steyne at Brighton in Jane Austen's day

I found this extract from a satirical poem which paints such wonderful pictures in the mind of Brighton in the late 1790's. It's taken from 'A Moral Epistle from the Pavilion at Brighton to Carlton House' by Anthony Pasquin.

'Tis the rage but to walk on the Steyne in the eve,
When the dew falls as rapid as sand through a sieve;
Till their clothes hang dependent absorbing a damp,
More fatal than steams from an African swamp:
When the blast's south or east the spray rides in the gale,
Till you're crusted with salt like Dutch herrings for sale;
And when north or east, the impertinent wind
Incessantly cuts, like a razor behind:
If the nerves are too fine, the pedestrian decays;
If not he's lumbago'd the rest of his days.

If you've ever walked near the seafront in Brighton you will know how true this rhyme is to this day!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Elizabeth Bennet's courage

I love the way that Jane Austen exposes Darcy's character in the following extract and reveals Elizabeth Bennet's playful sense of humour and her indomitable spirit. The scene takes place at Rosings, the home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. This snobbish woman ignores Elizabeth who is not made to feel welcome in the least. Lady Catherine spends the whole time talking to her nephews, Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. However, the latter manages to engage Elizabeth in conversation and persuades her to play the piano. As she starts to perform Elizabeth sees Mr Darcy approach.

"You mean to frighten me, Mr. Darcy, by coming in all this state to hear me? But I will not be alarmed though your sister does play so well. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me."

"I shall not say that you are mistaken," he replied, "because you could not really believe me to entertain any design of alarming you; and I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance long enough to know that you find great enjoyment in occasionally professing opinions which in fact are not your own."

Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself, and said to Colonel Fitzwilliam, "Your cousin will give you a very pretty notion of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say. I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so well able to expose my real character, in a part of the world where I had hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit. Indeed, Mr. Darcy, it is very ungenerous in you to mention all that you knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire -- and, give me leave to say, very impolitic too -- for it is provoking me to retaliate, and such things may come out as will shock your relations to hear."

"I am not afraid of you," said he smilingly.

"Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of," cried Colonel Fitzwilliam. "I should like to know how he behaves among strangers."

"You shall hear then -- but prepare yourself for something very dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a ball -- and at this ball, what do you think he did? He danced only four dances! I am sorry to pain you -- but so it was. He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner. Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact."

"I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond my own party."

"True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball room. Well, Colonel Fitzwilliam, what do I play next? My fingers wait your orders."

"Perhaps," said Darcy, "I should have judged better had I sought an introduction; but I am ill qualified to recommend myself to strangers."

"Shall we ask your cousin the reason of this?" said Elizabeth, still addressing Colonel Fitzwilliam. "Shall we ask him why a man of sense and education, and who has lived in the world, is ill qualified to recommend himself to strangers?"

"I can answer your question," said Fitzwilliam, "without applying to him. It is because he will not give himself the trouble."

"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."

"My fingers," said Elizabeth, "do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault -- because I would not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman's of superior execution."

Darcy smiled and said, "You are perfectly right. You have employed your time much better. No one admitted to the privilege of hearing you can think anything wanting. We neither of us perform to strangers."

From the beginning of the chapter we can imagine Elizabeth's distress; trying her best to be civil in an uncomfortable situation. But because she is Elizabeth Bennet she manages to rise above the petty behaviour of those that try to intimidate her whilst simultaneously having a bit of fun at Mr Darcy's expense. Not only is she able to shame Mr Darcy but is also witty, managing to have the last laugh!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A New Cover for Lydia Bennet's Story

This is the new cover for Lydia Bennet's Story which is being published in October by Sourcebooks. I am absolutely thrilled with it; I think the designers have done a wonderful job. The illustration is by Brock and shows Lydia and Kitty being introduced to Mr Wickham.

The following extract is from Lydia's journal when Lydia learns that her favourites are about to leave for Brighton.

Saturday, May 8th

My world as I know it has ended! I have received such dreadful news today that I do not think I shall ever recover! I met with Mr Wickham (who looked as handsome as ever in his scarlet coat) in the High Street in Meryton this morning, and he informed me that the regiment is leaving to be encamped at Brighton for the summer! I could not believe it, nor disguise my disappointment, and asked him what on earth we shall all do without the society of all the officers we have come to know so well. His replies were gentlemanly and thoughtful, yet he seems keen to be gone and spoke of little regret. I daresay he is anxious to take his disappointed hopes away with him, though it has to be said, his excitement for the Brighton venture was plainly evident, especially when he spoke of an appointment he must keep at his tailor. New clothes for the seaside would be absolutely vital, he explained. It could not be said that the militia did not know how to dress, and the entertainments would be such that he would be letting the Colonel down if he was not turned out just right. Oh, if only I could go to Brighton and sample its delights! Lord! Life is so unfair!!!
I do wonder what Mr Wickham will feel when he sees my sister Lizzy again—what will she have to say on the matter? Her hopes of marriage may yet be doomed with the man she so clearly admires. I could not help but watch his progress down the street as he left me—oh, how many times will I have that pleasure left?
I hastened on to Harriet’s, hoping that by some small chance, the report might have been a false one, only to have it confirmed and find my dear friend in a state betwixt excitement at the prospect of spending several weeks in Brighton and distress at leaving all her friends behind. She had the most wonderful idea to persuade papa to take a house for the summer and, although my mother and I have petitioned him with the details, he is adamant in his renouncement of any such plan. If only Jane and Lizzy were here, I am sure they could persuade him of the benefits to the entire household.
I cannot live with the idea of Meryton devoid of all its dear redcoats. How I shall miss darling Denny, Pratt, and Chamberlayne. I will never dance with Mr Wickham again. I think I shall die!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all Mums in the US and Australia!
I am a little late posting the results of the competition - so sorry! I decided to award two books as there was such a warm response. Correct answers were entered in a draw. Books are winging their way to Schlomit in the USA and Sylvia in Malaysia. Thank you to everyone who entered - it's so lovely to hear from you all.

Here are the answers:

1) Jane, Elizabeth, Mary and Kitty (Catherine)

2) Harriet Forster

3) Mr Wickham

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Pride and Prejudice Competition - Win a copy of Lydia Bennet's Story

It is Mother's Day in the USA on May 11th. In celebration of mothers everywhere, I have a competition to win a copy of Lydia Bennet's Story. The competition is open to everyone, regardless of the country in which you live.
Please e-mail your answers (don't forget to include your name) to effusions at btinternet dot com (say it out loud). The winner will be announced on Saturday, 10th May.

Answer the following questions:-

1. What are the names of Lydia Bennet's sisters?

2. Who takes Lydia Bennet to Brighton?

3. What is the name of the man that Lydia marries in Pride and Prejudice?

Good Luck!