Saturday, May 30, 2009

Print Shops and Admiral Croft in Bath

Print shops were very popular in Jane Austen's England. In particular, the political cartoonists of the day like James Gillray (1757-1815) and Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) provided entertainment for the masses who crowded round the print shop windows to see their latest pictures.

Here is a little nugget of Jane Austen's treasure for your delight. Admiral Croft's character is painted so beautifully in a few sentences. To accompany it is a Brock illustration and a photo of the shop in Bath which they used for the print shop in the 1996 adaptation which has to be my favourite of all adaptations, I think.

Anne was too much engaged with Lady Russell to be often walking herself; but it so happened that one morning, about a week or ten days after the Crofts' arrival, it suited her best to leave her friend, or her friend's carriage, in the lower part of the town, and return alone to Camden Place; and in walking up Milsom Street she had the good fortune to meet with the Admiral. He was standing by himself, at a printshop window, with his hands behind him, in earnest contemplation of some print, and she not only might have passed him unseen, but was obliged to touch as well as address him before she could catch his notice. When he did perceive and acknowledge her, however, it was done with all his usual frankness and good humour. "Ha! is it you? Thank you, thank you. This is treating me like a friend. Here I am, you see, staring at a picture. I can never get by this shop without stopping. But what a thing here is, by way of a boat. Do look at it. Did you ever see the like? What queer fellows your fine painters must be, to think that any body would venture their lives in such a shapeless old cockleshell as that. And yet here are two gentlemen stuck up in it mightily at their ease, and looking about them at the rocks and mountains, as if they were not to be upset the next moment, which they certainly must be. I wonder where that boat was built!" (laughing heartily); "I would not venture over a horsepond in it. Well," (turning away), "now, where are you bound? Can I go any where for you, or with you? Can I be of any use?"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Editing with Lizzy and Darcy

I'm at the editing stage of my latest work in progress. Surely this has to be the most trying and difficult part of writing a book. It's when I feel I'm completely on my own - and I feel a little bit lonely. I start to read it through, feel quite pleased with how it's all going, and then the doubts start to creep in. That part doesn't feel quite right - I remember when I was writing it that I thought I'd written something memorable, but no, it's reading like a pile of pants as my youngest might say. OK, I think that's better - then the next chapter doesn't seem to work. Lizzy, would you really have said that? And Darcy, have I painted you a little too grave? Time for a coffee, I think, and didn't I promise to phone someone? I waste an hour or two with important jobs that I convince myself couldn't possibly be done at any other time before I sit down to work again. I'm in a ruthless mood! I start slashing away cutting out large chunks of text, hours of work that once seemed so right. There's something wrong with the timeline and I suddenly realise that one event couldn't possibly have happened. What I thought was careful planning and plotting has gone completely awry! This is when I start to write lists going over and over my notes and wondering how I'm going to resolve everything. It's all going so horribly wrong. Back to the typescript - oh yes, I like this part, I'm happy, not even a pen mark on the next twenty pages. And, I wouldn't admit it to everybody, but I actually laugh out loud at that bit - yes, I'm on a roll!!! Reward myself with a fat bar of chocolate. So the first hurdles were just a blip, I think, until I come to a bit of sticky re-writing that I just don't want to do. Hold my head in my hands. The sun's over the yard arm - a glass of wine will help, I'm positive - mmm, yes, lovely, things definitely don't seem quite as bad now. I've done it at last, I'm satisfied it says what I want, but then, is it now too long? Could I cut it back a little? I'm reading again, nearly there, just another fifty pages and I'm finished - well, before I bring it out and start all over again!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Haddon Hall Gardens

The gardens at Haddon are lovely - I really enjoyed the views from the terraces - the formal gardens contrasting with the wildness of the landscape beyond. I have seen photos of the Hall in summer - I shall definitely have to visit again to see the riot of roses clambering over stone walls and framing windows - even in April the garden was very pretty. I hope you enjoy the photos!



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Review for Lydia Bennet's Story from JASNA


Book Review from the Jane Austen Society of North America - Kelly M. McDonald

Lydia Bennet's Story was reviewed alongside Carrie Bebris' novel, The Matters at Mansfield so I've extracted the relevant parts of the review which concern my book.

A good opening line can instantly vitalize a novel...Jane Odiwe sets her scene exceedingly well: "The true misfortune, which besets any young lady destined for fortune and favour, is to find that she has been born into an unsuitable family." The two books share many characteristics: they grab the reader from the beginning; sustain momentum; and present work of talented authors. They likewise extract from Austen two bad boys everyone loves to hate,...and pivot their denouements upon ill-advised marriages, for ultimately these men stray from the fold.

Blending narrative with diary extracts, Jane Odiwe presents Lydia in all her giddy, officer-hungry glory. Odiwe's subtle and pointed conveyance of a character's manners or foibles in a few words is a delight - an example, Lydia's asides concerning her mother. While burning an unwanted gift from a potential lover, Lydia comments, "It caught the attention of my mother who is generally not so observant but she has a suspicious nature." Mrs Bennet is seen only through Lydia's eyes, and this manner of characterization is Odiwe's asset, especially when dealing with the popular Darcys and Bingleys. She paints the two couples very lightly, and thereby avoids upsetting the reverence they generate in many Austen fans. Lydia Bennet's Story stands on its own, though the action and characters from P&P are utilized as needed, usually via a few deft references.

Lydia's time in Brighton, among the uniforms she so adores, comprises the early section of the novel; by mid-point she and Wickham have been discovered by Darcy and are wed, though happiness is definitely not on the horizon. Wickham is already on the outlook for his next conquest, and the diary device allows revelations of Lydia's more secret traits. Concerning her move to Newcastle, the new Mrs. Wickham discloses, "What I would really like is a house on the higher slopes of town whre the wealthy are settling, not timbered lodgings in the old part of town." One spouse with a roving eye, the other with illusions of grandeur, spells trouble.

Readers who wish for a little sensuality in their Austen might welcome Lydia's gentle trysts, though one might expect a bit more effort on Mr. Wickham's part for this overt cad to have won his Lydia. His real competition comes from the Rev. Alexander Fitzalan, brother of Lydia's friend Isabella. This pair undeniably forms the romantic center of the novel. Readers will stay up late in order to finish Lydia Bennet's Story quickly and leave well pleased with a nice narrative.

Monday, May 18, 2009

News of a new blog, Lydia Bennet's Story, and a Jane Austen inspired Exhibition


News of a new blog - Austen Endeavours
- I am enjoying this blog from Aimee Fry and thought you might too! Aimee indulges her love of all things Austen and Regency along with her quest to become a writer!

Thanks to Jenny for a mention of Lydia Bennet's Story from Wondrous Reads which is a really interesting and entertaining teen book blog. There'll be a review from Jenny coming soon!

Finally from ABC news in Australia:

The National Gallery of Victoria is preparing to open an exhibition charting the fashion changes during Jane Austen's lifetime (1775-1817).

Persuasion: Fashion in the Age of Jane Austen features over 70 works and will include fashion, prints and drawings, decorative arts and paintings, with a focus on English women's dress from the early 19th century.

Curator Roger Leong says fashion played an important role in Jane Austen's novels.

"Austen's witty and perceptive comments about fashion mirrored the complex relationships within English society during her lifetime, especially between different classes and men and women," he said in a statement.

"The era witnessed radical changes in the way people dressed.

"The variations of the waistline, upwards from the natural waist and then back again, were a distinctive characteristic of the time, one of the most dynamic periods in fashion."

The exhibition is open at the NGV International from 22 May to 8 November 2009.

You lucky people! I wish I could come and see it - I love a fashion exhibition. If you are in the UK like me you can always visit the Fashion Museum which always has wonderful displays includng a current one on historical dress, or another favourite of mine is the dress collection at the V&A. The illustration is of a little character - Dizzie Lizzie - that I drew for a book made for my children some years ago.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jane Austen, Bath and Birthdays in May

Forgive me for being quiet lately, but we've had two birthdays in this house this week. Two of my children were born within a day of one another - three years apart - so it's always very hectic, a bit crazy, but very enjoyable! It's my nephew's birthday on the 17th also, so we shall be going to Brighton at the weekend to say Happy Birthday! We've been celebrating here and it made me wonder what Jane Austen might have been up to in May which has to be one of my favourite months of the year. It seems she was off to Bath at the start of the summer season. The Edward and Elizabeth she mentions are her brother and his wife. The letter is cheerful and she sounds as if she is looking forward to her stay in the city. I was reminded of Catherine in Northanger Abbey when Jane mentions dreading solitude, but her noting of a long list of arrivals means that she won't be sitting at tea like Catherine and Mrs Allen without company.

13, Queen's Square, Friday, May 17, 1799

MY DEAREST CASSANDRA,

Our journey yesterday went off exceedingly well; nothing occurred to alarm or delay us. We found the roads in excellent order, had very good horses all the way, and reached Devizes with ease by four o'clock. I suppose John has told you in what manner we were divided when we left Andover, and no alteration was afterwards made. At Devizes we had comfortable rooms and a good dinner, to which we sat down about five; amongst other things we had asparagus and a lobster, which made me wish for you, and some cheesecakes, on which the children made so delightful a supper as to endear the town of Devizes to them for a long time.

Well, here we are at Bath; we got here about one o'clock, and have been arrived just long enough to go over the house, fix on our rooms, and be very well pleased with the whole of it. Poor Elizabeth has had a dismal ride of it from Devizes, for it has rained almost all the way, and our first view of Bath has been just as gloomy as it was last November twelvemonth.

I have got so many things to say, so many things equally important, that I know not on which to decide at present, and shall therefore go and eat with the children.

We stopped in Paragon as we came along, but as it was too wet and dirty for us to get out, we could only see Frank, who told us that his master was very indifferent, but had had a better night last night than usual. In Paragon we met Mrs. Foley and Mrs. Dowdeswell with her yellow shawl airing out, and at the bottom of Kingsdown Hill we met a gentleman in a buggy, who, on minute examination, turned out to be Dr. Hall -- and Dr. Hall in such very deep mourning that either his mother, his wife, or himself must be dead. These are all of our acquaintances who have yet met our eyes.

I have some hopes of being plagued about my trunk; I had more a few hours ago, for it was too heavy to go by the coach which brought Thomas and Rebecca from Devizes; there was reason to suppose that it might be too heavy likewise for any other coach, and for a long time we could hear of no waggon to convey it. At last, however, we unluckily discovered that one was just on the point of setting out for this place, but at any rate the trunk cannot be here till to-morrow; so far we are safe, and who knows what may not happen to procure a farther delay?

I put Mary's letter into the postoffice at Andover with my own hand.

We are exceedingly pleased with the house; the rooms are quite as large as we expected. Mrs. Bromley is a fat woman in mourning, and a little black kitten runs about the staircase. Elizabeth has the apartment within the drawing-room; she wanted my mother to have it, but as there was no bed in the inner one, and the stairs are so much easier of ascent, or my mother so much stronger than in Paragon as not to regard the double flight, it is settled for us to be above, where we have two very nice-sized rooms, with dirty quilts and everything comfortable. I have the outward and larger apartment, as I ought to have; which is quite as large as our bedroom at home, and my mother's is not materially less. The beds are both as large as any at Steventon, and I have a very nice chest of drawers and a closet full of shelves -- so full indeed that there is nothing else in it, and it should therefore be called a cupboard rather than a closet, I suppose.

Tell Mary that there were some carpenters at work in the inn at Devizes this morning, but as I could not be sure of their being Mrs. W. Fowle's relations, I did not make myself known to them.

I hope it will be a tolerable afternoon. When first we came, all the umbrellas were up, but now the pavements are getting very white again.

My mother does not seem at all the worse for her journey, nor are any of us, I hope, though Edward seemed rather fagged last night, and not very brisk this morning; but I trust the bustle of sending for tea, coffee, and sugar, &c., and going out to taste a cheese himself, will do him good.

There was a very long list of arrivals here in the newspaper yesterday, so that we need not immediately dread absolute solitude; and there is a public breakfast in Sydney Gardens every morning, so that we shall not be wholly starved.

Elizabeth has just had a very good account of the three little boys. I hope you are very busy and very comfortable. I find no difficulty in closing my eyes. I like our situation very much; it is far more cheerful than Paragon, and the prospect from the drawing-room window, at which I now write, is rather picturesque, as it commands a prospective view of the left side of Brock Street, broken by three Lombardy poplars in the garden of the last house in Queen's Parade.

I am rather impatient to know the fate of my best gown, but I suppose it will be some days before Frances can get through the trunk. In the meantime I am, with many thanks for your trouble in making it, as well as marking my silk stockings,

Yours very affectionately,

JANE.

A great deal of love from everybody.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Dining Room at Haddon, Pride and Prejudice 2005

The dining room was used for a scene at the inn at Lambton in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It is quite a small room which would have been used by the family for their private quarters. The plaster ceiling dates from the early 1500s and is decorated with a Tudor rose and Talbot dog in recognition of Sir Henry Vernon's marriage to Anne Talbot.
In the window recess are carved figures in the oak panelling - these are thought to be Queen Elizabeth of York and her husband King Henry V11. I loved the windows at Haddon with their beautiful examples of early stained glass.

Here is a photo of the ceiling showing the Talbot dog device.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pride and Prejudice, 2005, Haddon Hall Chapel

The chapel at Haddon Hall was used in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. It's a marvellous example of an early chapel with separate seating for the gentry, wall frescoes, and 15th century painted glass. The south aisle dates from the 12th century and was widened during the 15th century when the north aisle was added. The atmosphere in such a place is incredible, you can almost hear the walls breathing and catch the scent of an Elizabethan lavender pomander. The air reverberates with a sense of the past and images of ladies in stiff brocade with pointed bodices and narrow frills about their necks loom before you on herb strewn flagstones vanishing into the shadows as quickly as they appear. It is still the parish church of Nether Haddon which is one of the smallest parishes in the country. The high-sided oak pews are probably date from the 15th century and were for the family and their guests. Covering the walls are some beautiful paintings, which it is believed would once have been highly coloured. As we were looking round the chapel a party came in with one of the guides. She told us that the marble effigy of a young boy is of Robert Charles John Manners, Lord Haddon, the son of the 8th Duke of Rutland. As the eldest son he should have inherited Haddon but sadly died at the age of nine in 1894. Most poignantly, they tuck him up at night with a blanket and say goodnight to this day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, a contender for Pemberley?


As they walked across the lawn towards the river, Elizabeth turned back to look again; her uncle and aunt stopped also: and while the former was conjecturing as to the date of the building, the owner of it himself suddenly came forward from the road which led behind it to the stables. They were within twenty yards of each other, and so abrupt was his appearance that it was impossible to avoid his sight. Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of each were overspread with the deepest blush. He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immoveable from surprise; but shortly recovering himself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility.

She had instinctively turned away; but, stopping on his approach, received his compliments with an embarrassment impossible to be overcome. Had his first appearance, or his resemblance to the picture they had just been examining, been insufficient to assure the other two that they now saw Mr. Darcy, the gardener's expression of surprise, on beholding his master, must immediately have told it. They stood a little aloof while he was talking to their niece, who, astonished and confused, scarcely dared lift her eyes to his face, and knew not what answer she returned to his civil enquiries after her family. Amazed at the alteration in his manner since they last parted, every sentence that he uttered was increasing her embarrassment; and every idea of the impropriety of her being found there recurring to her mind, the few minutes in which they continued together were some of the most uncomfortable of her life. Nor did he seem much more at ease: when he spoke, his accent had none of its usual sedateness; and he repeated his enquiries as to the time of her having left Longbourn, and of her stay in Derbyshire, so often, and in so hurried a way, as plainly spoke the distraction of his thoughts.

At length every idea seemed to fail him; and, after standing a few moments without saying a word, he suddenly recollected himself, and took leave.



Pemberley was not a modern house judging from the sentence above taken from Pride and Prejudice or Mr and Mrs Gardiner would not be trying to guess the age of the house. We have already learned that the house has a long gallery where Elizabeth delights in seeing a portrait of Mr Darcy so it seems likely that the building has its origins in Elizabethan or Jacobean architecture.

The picture-gallery, and two or three of the principal bedrooms, were all that remained to be shewn. In the former were many good paintings; but Elizabeth knew nothing of the art; and from such as had been already visible below, she had willingly turned to look at some drawings of Miss Darcy's in crayons, whose subjects were usually more interesting, and also more intelligible.

In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could have little to fix the attention of a stranger. Elizabeth walked on in quest of the only face whose features would be known to her. At last it arrested her - and she beheld a striking resemblance of Mr. Darcy, with such a smile over the face as she remembered to have sometimes seen when he looked at her. She stood several minutes before the picture in earnest contemplation, and returned to it again before they quitted the gallery.

I think the last time I visited Haddon Hall I was a little girl and I had only dim recollections. It is a beautiful example of a manor house dating from the 12th century, but one which feels distinctly Elizabethan. I couldn't quite imagine the Darcys here - there are no later additions to the house after 1700, and in fact the house lay dormant from that time until 1920 when the 9th Duke and Duchess of Rutland restored the house and gardens. But if Jane Austen did visit Derbyshire might she have seen Haddon Hall ( it is a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground,) and imagined Elizabeth and Darcy living there - we'll never really know! Haddon Hall was used for some of the scenes in the latest adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, notably the chapel and the dining room.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What are Men to Rocks and Mountains?!

In the last of my posts on Chatsworth I thought you'd like to see some of the views of the gardens. It was difficult to choose, I have so many photos, but I thought I'd tie these in with one or two passages from Jane Austen's wonderful Pride and Prejudice.

"We have not quite determined how far it shall carry us," said Mrs. Gardiner, "but, perhaps, to the Lakes."

No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. "My dear, dear aunt," she rapturously cried, "what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of anything. We will know where we have gone - we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers."

Of course Elizabeth and the Gardiners have to change their plans and find themselves in Derbyshire. After visiting Pemberley and being taken round the house they venture outside. There is a shocking surprise in store for Eliza.

As they walked across the lawn towards the river, Elizabeth turned back to look again; her uncle and aunt stopped also: and while the former was conjecturing as to the date of the building, the owner of it himself suddenly came forward from the road which led behind it to the stables.

They were within twenty yards of each other, and so abrupt was his appearance that it was impossible to avoid his sight. Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of each were overspread with the deepest blush. He absolutely started, and for a moment seemed immoveable from surprise; but shortly recovering himself, advanced towards the party, and spoke to Elizabeth, if not in terms of perfect composure, at least of perfect civility.

She had instinctively turned away; but, stopping on his approach, received his compliments with an embarrassment impossible to be overcome. Had his first appearance, or his resemblance to the picture they had just been examining, been insufficient to assure the other two that they now saw Mr. Darcy, the gardener's expression of surprise, on beholding his master, must immediately have told it. They stood a little aloof while he was talking to their niece, who, astonished and confused, scarcely dared lift her eyes to his face, and knew not what answer she returned to his civil enquiries after her family. Amazed at the alteration in his manner since they last parted, every sentence that he uttered was increasing her embarrassment; and every idea of the impropriety of her being found there recurring to her mind, the few minutes in which they continued together were some of the most uncomfortable of her life. Nor did he seem much more at ease: when he spoke, his accent had none of its usual sedateness; and he repeated his enquiries as to the time of her having left Longbourn, and of her stay in Derbyshire, so often, and in so hurried a way, as plainly spoke the distraction of his thoughts.

At length every idea seemed to fail him; and, after standing a few moments without saying a word, he suddenly recollected himself, and took leave.

Elizabeth is mortified wondering what Mr Darcy will think of her. She imagines it will seem that she has purposefully thrown herself in his path again. They continue walking - you cannot help feeling for Elizabeth - but then events take yet another turn!
They entered the woods, and bidding adieu to the river for a while, ascended some of the higher grounds; whence, in spots where the opening of the trees gave the eye power to wander, were many charming views of the valley, the opposite hills, with the long range of woods overspreading many, and occasionally part of the stream. Mr. Gardiner expressed a wish of going round the whole park, but feared it might be beyond a walk. With a triumphant smile, they were told that it was ten miles round. It settled the matter; and they pursued the accustomed circuit; which brought them again, after some time, in a descent among hanging woods, to the edge of the water, in one of its narrowest parts. They crossed it by a simple bridge, in character with the general air of the scene; it was a spot less adorned than any they had yet visited; and the valley, here contracted into a glen, allowed room only for the stream and a narrow walk amidst the rough coppice-wood which bordered it. Elizabeth longed to explore its windings; but when they had crossed the bridge, and perceived their distance from the house, Mrs. Gardiner, who was not a great walker, could go no farther, and thought only of returning to the carriage as quickly as possible. Her niece was, therefore, obliged to submit, and they took their way towards the house on the opposite side of the river, in the nearest direction; but their progress was slow, for Mr. Gardiner, though seldom able to indulge the taste, was very fond of fishing, and was so much engaged in watching the occasional appearance of some trout in the water, and talking to the man about them, that he advanced but little. Whilst wandering on in this slow manner, they were again surprised, and Elizabeth's astonishment was quite equal to what it had been at first, by the sight of Mr. Darcy approaching them, and at no great distance. The walk being here less sheltered than on the other side, allowed them to see him before they met. Elizabeth, however astonished, was at least more prepared for an interview than before, and resolved to appear and to speak with calmness, if he really intended to meet them. For a few moments, indeed, she felt that he would probably strike into some other path. This idea lasted while a turning in the walk concealed him from their view; the turning past, he was immediately before them. With a glance, she saw, that he had lost none of his recent civility; and, to imitate his politeness, she began as they met to admire the beauty of the place; but she had not got beyond the words "delightful," and "charming," when some unlucky recollections obtruded, and she fancied that praise of Pemberley from her, might be mischievously construed. Her colour changed, and she said no more.