Tuesday, September 30, 2008

All in the name of Research!

A couple of years ago, my sister treated me to a long weekend in Derbyshire. We don't do it very often, but it's always lovely to spend time together on our own. One of the fascinating places we visited was the Red House Stables Working Carriage Museum. It was in the middle of winter and as we were the only people there that afternoon, we were able to really explore the place and completely monopolise one of the lovely staff who told us all about the adventures they'd had working in lots of t.v. and film. I was especially interested to hear that some of the carriages had been used for the 1996 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I loved the striped interior of the carriage below, which had been left in its original state. Can you just imagine being driven around whilst sitting on pink striped glazed chintz!

Jane Odiwe

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Poem dedicated to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, by her sister Lydia

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.
Tuesday, 29th September, 1801

I am not often inspired to write my thoughts down in the form of poetry, such as I have seen my sisters do, but when I came across these verses in my pocket book, I laughed out loud! Between us, I must tell you that, my sister Lizzy is always going on and on about the folly of my behaviour, so I was reassured when I read this excellent poem, that a little folly is good for us after all!

"Pray, what is folly?" Sages say,
'Tis part of every ruling passion:
'Tis to be fond of fun and fashion.
It is to love-it is to wed-
(This last I've half a mind to try it)-
'Tis every hope by fancy bred,
They say-and I do not deny it.

So then, according to the wise,
Folly is found in all our pleasures:
It mingles with our smiles and sighs,
And forms a part of life's best treasures.
If joy is ne'er from folly free,
Why, then, indeed, my dear Eliza,
However foolish we may be,
'Tis greater folly to be wiser!

I found this fashion plate in mama's monthly museum-I wonder if I might persuade her to some new stuff for a gown. I cannot help but imagine myself in such finery.Oh, it is so hard being poor-I daresay Maria Lucas only has to smile at her father, Sir William, to have a new gown. It is so unfair!!!

Lydia Bennet

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mr Bingley arrives at Netherfield Park

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Sunday, September 27th, 1801

Mama insisted I accompany her to church, (much against my inclination,) but I kept myself amused, by whispering to Kitty, practising a flirtatious glance I have perfected, and watching its effects on the verger. Unhappily, papa happened to look my way just as I had engaged the complete attention of my object, and hissed between clenched teeth, that if I wanted to see any token for my pocket, I had better desist making sheep’s eyes at innocent officers of the church. La! I declare the verger is one of the most handsome men I have ever set eyes on!
There is great excitement in the village because a Mr Bingley has taken the house at Netherfield Park. He is a single man with a large fortune and every maid in the village has him married and fathering her ten children before he has stepped out of his carriage. Indeed, I am most anxious to see him myself, even though I have heard that he is not a soldier, nor officer, nor captain of the guard. My partiality for a soldier is so fixed, that it would take an exceedingly handsome man to capture my heart or my affections, if he had not the added attraction of a scarlet coat!
Sadly, that gentleman will not get his chance to fall in love with me, because papa will not call on him. I am vexed because I overheard my father say, (whilst listening at the keyhole), that we girls are all silly and ignorant, except for his favourite, Lizzy. At least mama has the good sense to know that of all my five sisters, I am the good humoured one! She forgot to add, however, that I am delightful company, that I possess a sparkling wit, and am at present in ravishing good looks. Despite papa's lack of interest, I am not without hope of dancing and balls, as I am sure my mother will strive to bring about an introduction, even if it takes a month to succeed with my father. I cannot wait!

Lydia Bennet

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lost in Austen

Two words - utterly brilliant!
Well, I was going to leave it there, but I need to add that if you want Pride and Prejudice, read the book. If you want to escape to the imagined world of an alternative Pride and Prejudice, where the plot takes on a life of its own and where the laughs are abundant, then you will enjoy this series. I loved every single actor - you were all excellent, and the writing is so clever and funny. Sorry, Mr Darcy, you were good, but I've fallen in love with someone else. Mr Bennet, (Hugh Bonneville) I love you!

Lydia Bennet longs for a ball!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.
Friday, September 25th, 1801

Aunt and Uncle Phillips came for dinner. My aunt is my very favourite person - she is such a rattle and knows every last piece of gossip in Meryton. We had two courses, pigeon pie, curry soup, fish and vegetables, then macaroni, baskets of pastry, roast beef and celery. That was not enough to satisfy, however, and we managed some delicious iced cake, summer fruits and syllabub to follow. I ate until fit to burst but was still able to find the wherewithall for a jig after.
As I had a captive audience after enthralling everyone with an exhibition of the hornpipe, (instruction received by courtesy of my friend Maria Lucas's brother) I took my chance to air my dearest wish in public, knowing that my mother in particular, might be persuaded to agree to my wishes.
“Mama, I long to go to a ball! Please may we go to the next Assembly?” I begged, “or else we will be old maids before Jane, Lizzy or Mary are wed and will suffer rheumatic knees and a hunch back before we are allowed our first steps at a dance. It is so unfair!”
“Lydia, my dear,” my mother sighed, “I understand exactly how you feel. I am sure if there were more eligible young men in the county, we would have attended at least one wedding this summer, but as it is, there seem to be a scarcity. If Jane with all her beauty and endowments has been unable to secure the attentions of a worthy gentleman, then there is no hope for any young girl in the neighbouring vicinity. Indeed, it vexes me, to think of my dear girls with no hope of making a suitable match and something needs to be done. Mr Bennet, what think you of a trip to Bath?”
“Oh, yes please, mama, a trip to Bath would be the very thing, and papa, think how you would save on the household expenditure. Everything can be got much cheaper in Bath,” I cried. “Isn’t that so, Lizzy? Didn’t Maria Lucas say silk stockings were cheaper by fourpence a pair when they stayed there last winter? I am sure she did and lodgings too are very reasonable. We could take a house on the upper slopes as Sir William Lucas did, I am sure Lady Lucas can tell us where the best situations are to be had.”
“Lady Lucas need not trouble herself on our account, I am sure we are quite capable of finding a splendid situation ourselves,” my mother declared. “As to a trip westwards, I would never have thought we would have to resort to such a scheme. I must confess I am a little uneasy about such an excursion. I hear that quality folk do not frequent such watering places these days as did in my youth and I do not know that my nerves could undertake such a journey, in the uncertain knowledge that we may not meet anybody worthy of our girls’ consideration. Sister Phillips, what do you make of this sorry situation?”
My aunt’s commiserations were interrupted by my father who took great pleasure in vexing me.
“I am very pleased to register that you are making such a study of household economics, Lydia, and that you show an appreciation of the financial limits that are deemed necessary to our present style of living, which promote both prosperity and providence. Therefore, I am justified in thinking that you will consider the true cost of a jaunt to Bath as the last enterprise which any sensible man should embark upon, despite the remarkable savings to be had on the price of a pair of stockings.”
My aunt made soothing remarks aimed at placating both of my parents and papa declared once and for all that there would be no expeditions to Bath or anywhere else, adding that if any man, worthy or not, made him an offer to take us off his hands, he would sign a contract on the spot, much to mama’s chagrin.
We danced till midnight and I sat down not once. Jane and Lizzy make fine partners but I dream of a young man taking my hand and leading me to the dance floor. Mama has promised that Kitty and I may go to the next Assembly Ball, and in an effort to prevent our father having other opinions on the matter, she has advised us to keep out of his way and to behave as sensibly as our sisters if we are to have our wish. However, it is very hard on a girl with natural high spirits to be so quiet - how I shall keep this up is beyond me. I have tiptoed upstairs, knocked on doors before entering, curtseyed like a bobbing ball in a wooden cup and have not quarrelled with Kitty for a whole day. The strain of being so good is killing me!

Lydia Bennet

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lydia introduces her sisters, Jane, Lizzy, Mary and Kitty Bennet!

Lydia Bennet's Online Diary.
At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's online diary starts just before Mr Bingley arrives and finishes where my novel, Lydia Bennet's Story, begins.

Tuesday, September 22nd 1801

I, Lydia Marianne Bennet, have decided this day to record the fortunes and adventures which so oft befall a young lady in a country village, namely, those of yours truly - though truth to tell, Longbourn is as dull as ditchwater and as yet, my escapades have been few and far between! I live in Longbourn, near Meryton, ( a vastly entertaining place) and have two parents still living and the blessing of sibling love; four elder sisters, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary and Kitty, whom I greatly esteem, despite their resolution to instruct me in all concerns and meddle in my affairs.

Jane is considered the beauty of the family, but for all her curls and dimples has not an ardent beau at present. I am sure if I had her eyelashes I would make better use of them, but then, I daresay she wishes she had my particular talents for attracting the men. I am too modest to say how successful I am when it comes to catching the eye of a likely gentleman, but my sister Kitty says I am unsurpassed!

Elizabeth is very handsome, not pretty as such, but she has a very engaging open face and a lively mind, which makes her attractive to many young men, though she has not yet appealed enough to anyone who is looking for a wife. I daresay she will soon enough, she is a very determined character - when she sets her mind to something, there is no stopping her!

How do I describe Mary? I think perhaps if I say she is a most accomplished young woman, that will suffice for now. She can play the pianoforte tolerably well, she draws and paints quite to a standard and reads constantly. If I tell you that her favourite books are all learned tomes and that she positively relishes Fordyce's Sermons, (she has never heard of 'The Black Veil'!!!) I think you may get a picture of Mary.

Kitty is my dearest and sweetest sister. She is next to me in age, though others will tell you that they always assume I am the elder of the two, which you may imagine vexes her sorely. We share all our confidences and I would not betray my sister's secrets for a king's ransom. No one knows she is in love with the baker's boy. Well, it does not signify, I doubt he knows of her existence!

As for myself, I long to be in love, but unless my elder sisters have their luck soon with a couple of beaux, I daresay I shall be long left on the shelf. It is so unfair - to be endowed with such talents and attractions as mine, with no chance to exhibit - no doubt, I shall end an old maid!

Lydia Bennet

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lydia Bennet arrives from America!

What excitement! When a large parcel arrived from Sourcebooks in America, I could scarcely contain myself. Seeing an image of my book is nothing to actually having the pleasure of seeing it and holding it in my hands at last. I am absolutely thrilled and I can't thank enough all the people who have worked on Lydia Bennet's Story to make my dreams come true. Thank you to the design department - I love the size of the book and the cover - the illustration and text have a gloss finish, which set against the rhubarb and custard matt finish of the rest looks really yummy! Inside, the decorations are very pretty on the chapter headings, and the whole book smells wonderful. I know that might seem a bit of a strange thing to say, but I love the smell of books, especially new ones. Thank you to everyone who worked on it, but especially to Deb Werksman for believing in me.

I thought this morning we'd see if Jane is in at her home in Chawton. Let's pass by the front door and peep in the window at the side. What a beautiful gothic window! Is she in? I can't see her there, but I expect she's sitting in the dining parlour, writing at her little table with a piece of paper ready to cover her work if she thinks anyone might come in. If the door squeaks she will be alert and no doubt pretend that she is doing something else entirely.

To celebrate the upcoming publication of my new book I shall be publishing a new online diary of Lydia's, including new illustrations and pictures, which I hope you will enjoy. At this time of the year I always read Pride and Prejudice and I thought it would be fun to see what Lydia is thinking about all the goings on at Longbourn. Lydia's diary will start just before Mr Bingley arrives and terminate where Lydia Bennet's Story starts. Join me tomorrow with my naughty Lydia!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What do you think of my gig, Miss Morland?

I painted this scene from Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, to illustrate the part where Catherine Morland is introduced to Isabella's boorish brother. Catherine and her friend Isabella have almost been run over by an approaching gig, which to their surprise contains their brothers.

“Oh, these odious gigs!” said Isabella, looking up. “How I detest them.” But this detestation, though so just, was of short duration, for she looked again and exclaimed, “Delightful! Mr. Morland and my brother!”

“Good heaven! ‘Tis James!” was uttered at the same moment by Catherine; and, on catching the young men’s eyes, the horse was immediately checked with a violence which almost threw him on his haunches, and the servant having now scampered up, the gentlemen jumped out, and the equipage was delivered to his care.

Catherine, by whom this meeting was wholly unexpected, received her brother with the liveliest pleasure; and he, being of a very amiable disposition, and sincerely attached to her, gave every proof on his side of equal satisfaction, which he could have leisure to do, while the bright eyes of Miss Thorpe were incessantly challenging his notice; and to her his devoirs were speedily paid, with a mixture of joy and embarrassment which might have informed Catherine, had she been more expert in the development of other people’s feelings, and less simply engrossed by her own, that her brother thought her friend quite as pretty as she could do herself.

John Thorpe, who in the meantime had been giving orders about the horses, soon joined them, and from him she directly received the amends which were her due; for while he slightly and carelessly touched the hand of Isabella, on her he bestowed a whole scrape and half a short bow. He was a stout young man of middling height, who, with a plain face and ungraceful form, seemed fearful of being too handsome unless he wore the dress of a groom, and too much like a gentleman unless he were easy where he ought to be civil, and impudent where he might be allowed to be easy. He took out his watch: “How long do you think we have been running it from Tetbury, Miss Morland?"

After running on and boasting about how little time it has taken them, he continues to brag.

”What do you think of my gig, Miss Morland? A neat one, is not it? Well hung; town–built; I have not had it a month. It was built for a Christchurch man, a friend of mine, a very good sort of fellow; he ran it a few weeks, till, I believe, it was convenient to have done with it. I happened just then to be looking out for some light thing of the kind, though I had pretty well determined on a curricle too; but I chanced to meet him on Magdalen Bridge, as he was driving into Oxford, last term: ‘Ah! Thorpe,’ said he, ‘do you happen to want such a little thing as this? It is a capital one of the kind, but I am cursed tired of it.’ ‘Oh! D — ,’ said I; ‘I am your man; what do you ask?’ And how much do you think he did, Miss Morland?”

“I am sure I cannot guess at all.”

“Curricle–hung, you see; seat, trunk, sword–case, splashing–board, lamps, silver moulding, all you see complete; the iron–work as good as new, or better. He asked fifty guineas; I closed with him directly, threw down the money, and the carriage was mine.”

“And I am sure,” said Catherine, “I know so little of such things that I cannot judge whether it was cheap or dear.”

Poor Catherine has to endure much more of John Thorpe's company - hurry up Mr Tilney and come to the rescue!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

St Nicholas Church, Steventon

Here I am standing outside St. Nicholas Church in Steventon. Jane Austen's father was the rector here and Jane worshipped in the church as a girl. This beautiful part of Hampshire is very unspoiled and travelling around the area feels a little bit like going back in time. In Jane Austen's day there was no steeple on the church but other than that I am sure it looks very much the same.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Beatrix Potter and Jane Austen

I've been going through some old photos and came across these taken in the Lake District. I have always been a huge admirer of Beatrix Potter's books ever since my first was given to me at a birthday party. It was the Tale of Tom Kitten and I, like thousands of people before me, soon fell in love with all of Beatrix Potter's stories and wonderful painting. If you ever get a chance to visit her house at Hill Top,near Sawrey, Cumbria, you will not be disappointed. It is possible to see some of the rooms and places that inspired her paintings; in Hawkshead village you can actually see the beautiful, finely detailed watercolours, that were used in her little books. They are housed in what was her husband's solicitor's office, alongside information about Beatrix and information about the National Trust.
As I stated in yesterday's post, Beatrix Potter loved Jane Austen's books, her particular favourite being Persuasion.

The photo at the top is Jeremy Fisher's lake-Esthwaite Water and the bottom photo shows me in Beatix Potter's garden, on the path leading to the house.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Beatrix Potter and Jane Austen's Persuasion

Helen Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943) was an English author and illustrator, botanist, and conservationist, best known for her children's books, which featured animal characters such as Peter Rabbit.

Born into a privileged household, Beatrix Potter was educated by governesses, and grew up isolated from other children. She had numerous pets and through holidays in Scotland and the Lake District developed a love of landscape, flora and fauna, all which she closely observed and painted. As a young woman her parents discouraged intellectual development, but her study and paintings of fungi led her to be widely respected in the field of mycology. In her thirties Potter published the highly successful children's book The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Beatrix Potter eventually published 23 children's books, and having become financially independent of her parents, was able to buy a farm in the Lake District, which she extended with other purchases over time. She became a sheep breeder and farmer while continuing to write and illustrate children's books. Potter died in 1943, and left almost all of her property to The National Trust in order to preserve the beauty of the Lake District as she had known it, protecting it from developers. (Short biography from Wikipedia)

Persuasion is a story about Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. Eight years before the story begins, Anne falls in love with Wentworth, who is working his way up through the navy. Her father and good friend, Mrs Russell, feel that the connection with this young naval officer is not suitable and persuade her to break off the engagement. Captain Wentworth comes back into her life but it seems there is little hope for Anne who has never stopped loving him, whilst he courts her sister-in-law. But of course, in true Jane Austen style, after a series of events where hopes almost fade entirely, Anne and Wentworth are united at last.

Beatrix Potter was secretly engaged to her publisher Norman Warne. Like Anne Elliot, Beatrix's parents disapproved of Norman, feeling that his social standing was not good enough. Tragically, he died before their wedding could take place.
It was years later, that Beatrix found love again. She must have thought, like Anne Elliot, that she would never marry and remain a spinster all her life, but in her forties, Beatrix married a local solicitor, William Heelis. Persuasion is a story of love being found again and I feel this is why it was Beatrix's favourite book.

I love Pride and Prejudice but Persuasion is a favourite Jane Austen novel too! The top illustration is a painting of Captain Wentworth regaling the party of friends with naval stories at the inn at Lyme. My second watercolour shows Anne and Captain Wentworth on the Gravel Walk in Bath, renewing their feelings and declaring their love for one another.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A New Publication: Mrs Brandon's Invitation

I am really thrilled to be able to tell you that my second novel, Mrs Brandon's Invitation will be published by Sourcebooks next year. It will be coming out in September, which seems such a long time to wait to see it in print, but will fit so perfectly within the time frame of the book, that I will just have to learn to be more patient.
As the title suggests, Mrs Brandon's Invitation is a sequel to Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. The story principally centres around Marianne (nee Dashwood) who has been married to Colonel Brandon for three years and that of her younger sister Margaret, but most of the characters are there with a few new ones. I have so enjoyed writing this one, interweaving the stories of two heroines against the backdrops of Delaford in the Autumn, Lyme and London in winter. It was such fun to write the characters of Mrs Jennings and Lucy Ferrars, along with her sister Anne Steele. Colonel Brandon's sister, husband and son make an appearance at Whitwell and this is where the mischief starts. I am often inspired by a secondary character or mention of one in the original books and I decided to introduce the family. If you remember, Mrs Jennings refers to Colonel Brandon's sister as residing in Avignon at the time of Sense and Sensibility. With her son Henry coming home from university, it was time to bring the Lawrence family back to Whitwell.

Here is a little taster of what is to come.

No one is more delighted by the appearance of an eligible suitor for her sister Margaret Dashwood than Marianne Brandon, until it becomes clear that not only the happiness of the match, but also that of her own marriage are bound and ensnared by the secrets and lies that belong to the past. First attachments, false impressions, resentments and misconceptions, are the elements that conspire to jeopardise the happiness of the Brandon family at Delaford Park, along with the added predicament of Mrs Brandon's first love John Willoughby returning to the neighbourhood.

To learn more about Sourcebooks Inc. please click here

Friday, September 12, 2008

L'aimable Jane, a portrait of Jane Austen

This is a painting of Jane Austen which is based on the well known silhouette that was found in a second edition of Mansfield Park, inscribed "l'aimable Jane". The original silhouette is owned by the National Portrait Gallery, who believe it is dated around 1800 and possibly by Mrs Collins, a silhouettist who worked in Bath at that time. There is no firm evidence to confirm that it is Jane, but it seems quite likely. Unfortunately, reproductions always make the details a little too dark. My original painting is lighter and she looks less like she is wearing mascara. Perhaps I shall have to do another version. Well, I hope you find it interesting!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sisters and Birthdays!

I'm thinking about my sister today, it's her birthday. Happy Birthday Gaynor! Although we now live far apart, it's easy for us to keep in touch by phone and e-mail. When you consider that people in Jane Austen's day had only the post to maintain communication when they were apart, it's difficult to appreciate how limiting that must have been, though I must admit that I still get a thrill when I receive a letter, especially when it comes from overseas.

Jane Austen enjoyed a very close relationship with her sister and it would seem that they both had a happy childhood.Their mother and father educated them at home until 1782 when they both went away to school with their cousin Jane Cooper. Cassandra was to go alone at first but Jane would not be parted from her and though only seven, went away to Oxford, to a Mrs Cawley.

Painting of Jane and Cassandra at their brother James's wedding

There in the following year the school was struck by a terrible 'putrid sore throat' but Mrs Cawley decided not to inform parents. Jane Cooper wrote to her mother who arrived with her sister Mrs Austen, to take the girls home. Sadly, Mrs Cooper caught the infection and later died.
Finally, the girls attended the Abbey School at Reading.It seems the education here was very casual and relaxed. So long as the girls saw their tutor in the mornings, their afternoons were free. Imagine Jane's excitement when her brother Edward and cousin Cooper were allowed to take the girls out to dinner at a local inn.

Drawing by Ellen G. Hill
Jane loved reading a wide range of literature including novels and poetry. She could read French and some Italian, play the piano, sing and dance. Her embroidery and sewing skills were excellent; some examples of her handiwork can still be seen at Jane Austen's House Museum in Chawton.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Jane Austen, Walking and Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen revised her early novels at Chawton cottage in Hampshire after moving there in 1809. My painting shows the sisters coming out of the cottage to go on a walk. Jane is wearing a Tam with a red feather cockade. At a conference in Lyme Regis, Diana Shervington, a descendant of Jane Austen's brother Edward, showed this wonderful adornment for her hat and I decided to include it in my painting.
Jane was very fond of walking, a pursuit she enjoyed as well as her heroines.

The following is an extract from Pride and Prejudice. Miss Bingley comments on the fact that Miss Elizabeth Bennet has walked from her house at Longbourn to Netherfield.

"She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild."

"She did indeed, Louisa. I could hardly keep my countenance. Very nonsensical to come at all! Why must she be scampering about the country, because her sister had a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!"

"Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain; and the gown which had been let down to hide it, not doing its office."

"Your picture may be very exact, Louisa," said Bingley; "but this was all lost upon me. I thought Miss Elizabeth Bennet looked remarkably well when she came into the room this morning. Her dirty petticoat quite escaped my notice."

"You observed it, Mr. Darcy, I am sure," said Miss Bingley; "and I am inclined to think that you would not wish to see your sister make such an exhibition."

"Certainly not."

"To walk three miles, or four miles, or five miles, or whatever it is, above her ancles in dirt, and alone, quite alone! what could she mean by it? It seems to me to shew an abominable sort of conceited independence, a most country-town indifference to decorum."

"It shews an affection for her sister that is very pleasing," said Bingley.

"I am afraid, Mr. Darcy," observed Miss Bingley, in a half-whisper, "that this adventure has rather affected your admiration of her fine eyes."

"Not at all," he replied; "they were brightened by the exercise.

Ooh, those Bingley sisters are so horrid!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Women's Institute, Hove Actually and Jane Austen

A huge thank you to all the lovely ladies of Hove Actually W.I. who gave me such a warm welcome last night. I gave a talk on Jane Austen, Lydia Bennet and the ups and downs of trying to become a published author, from self-publishing to realising my dream with Sourcebooks Inc. It was lovely to hear that I might have inspired one or two people to try writing a book. I think quite a few of the ladies have thought that they would like to have a go but have not felt brave enough to make a start. It's a bit like I sometimes feel when faced with a blank canvas-you have to make that first mark, which is always the hardest.
Before I set off yesterday on the train from Victoria I felt quite nervous. A well-meaning friend had said, "Don't worry, they won't be listening to you, they'll be waiting for the tea at the end. Imagine my delight, when at the end of the evening not tea was produced but glasses of wine. Definitely a group of ladies after my own heart! It was a fun evening and I met so many interesting people.
For more information on the W.I. click here
Hove Actually W.I. are quite a newly formed group and welcome new members.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Jane Austen Portrait

This is one of my portraits of Jane Austen in a reflective mood. Inspired by her sister Cassandra's sketch, I have taken away her spinster's cap for a more youthful image. This is how I imagine she would have looked at about the time she was writing Pride and Prejudice. Which one of her beau inspired the character of Mr Darcy, I wonder? Was it Tom Lefroy as some suggest, or was it Edward Taylor, Mr Heartley, Reverend C. Powlett or Mr Warren? These gentleman are all mentioned in Jane's letters as possible suitors. And what about the mysterious suitor from Sidmouth? Jane is supposed to have fallen in love with a young clergyman in the West Country in 1801. Cassandra believed that Jane held him in high regard and that he returned her feelings. They were supposed to have met up at a later date but news of his untimely death reached them, possibly thwarting Jane's hopes of matrimony forever.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Jane Austen, Please Turn Round!

Jane Austen's work has been hugely inspirational in my life. I love all of her novels but my favourites are Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion.
I love the painting that Jane's sister Cassandra painted of her sitting in a rural scene in a blue dress. There is that tantalizing curve of her cheek, the fullness of her face that is hinted at in descriptions written about her by contemporaries. I always wished she could turn round so that we could see her face so I attempted a painting in which Jane turns to look at us.
I imagined Jane in Lyme Regis with her sister in 1804. In my book Effusions of Fancy I wrote a letter as though from Cassandra to accompany my painting:-
'What do you think of this little sketch? Do you remember the other sketch that I drew of you at Lyme? I had been puzzling over it and I decided that I should attempt to improve the proportions and I think it flatters you well. I had a fancy to make you turn in this drawing as though your name had just been called, so here you are, not looking in unwearied contemplation of the beautiful scenic views of Lyme but into the eyes of your dear family.'