Tuesday, December 14, 2010

E-book Giveaway - Jane Austen's Birthday!


Free E-books from Sourcebooks on December 16 - One Day Only

From Leah Hultenschmidt of Sourcebooks:

December 16 is Jane Austen’s birthday and as the world’s leading Jane Austen publisher, Sourcebooks, is throwing a huge one-day-only birthday book bash. We will be offering special ebook pricing on ten of the best Austen-inspired novels – and what better pricing could there be than free?

On December 16 only, the following bestselling ebooks will be available free through our retail partners (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc):

Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan 
Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken
The Darcy’s & the Bingley’s by Marsha Altman
Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll
What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown
The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Collins
The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview
Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy by Abigail Reynolds 

But the party doesn’t stop there, because also for one day only, we are offering free illustrated ebook editions of all six of Austen’s novels. These special editions include the full novels plus the legendary color illustrations of the Brock brothers originally created to accompany the books in 1898.

Even if you don't have a kindle you can download them onto your computer. I'm thrilled that my naughty Lydia is included in this set of wonderful books!
Here's the link to claim your books from Sourcebooks

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Jane Event on Thursday, 16th December!

It wouldn't be fair to neglect someone as important and dear to  us  as  Jane Austen  on her birthday.  She was born on 16th December 1775, it’ll be 235 years next week. We owe so many immensely pleasant moments to her that we decided she deserved a great B-day celebration.  My Jane Austen Book Club and other bloggers and Austen dedicated writers are going to have a blog party in her honour. You are all invited to join us on our “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANE!” event on Thursday December 16th. Who will be there? Where is the party going on?


1.     Adriana Zardini at  Jane Austen Sociedade do Brasil 
2.     Laurel Ann at Austenprose 
3.    Vic Sanborn at  Jane Austen's World 
4.    Katherine Cox at November's Autumn 
5.     Karen Wasylowski at Karen Wasylowski 
6.     Laurie Viera Rigler at Jane Austen Addict Blog Jane Austen Addict 
7.      Lynn Shepherd at her blog Lynn Shepherd 
8.      Jane Greensmith at Reading, Writing, Working, Playing 
9.      Me! Jane Odiwe at Jane Austen Sequels 
10.  Alexa Adams at First Impressions First Impressions 
11.  Regina Jeffers at her blog Regina Jeffers 
12.  Cindy Jones at First Draft 
13.  Janet Mullany at Risky Regencies 
14.  Maria Grazia  at  My Jane Austen Book Club 
15. Meredith Esparza Austenesque Reviews 

You’ll find Happy Birthday posts and tributes to Jane Austen on all these blogs on December 16th with the HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JANE  logo created by Adriana Zardini (JASBRA)  just for the occasion. Lovely, isn’t it? Visit all the blogs on December 16th and leave your comments + e-mail address to have lots of  chances to win one of the wonderful gifts we are giving away:
Books -  1 signed copy of…
1.     Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe
2.     Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
3.     Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
4.     Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd
5.     Intimations of Austen by Jane Greensmith
6.     Darcy's Passions: Fitzwilliam Darcy's Story by Regina Jeffers
7.     First Impressions. A Tale of Less Pride  and Prejudice  by Alexa Adams
8.     Jane and the Damned by Janet Mullany
9.     Bespelling Jane Austen by Janet Mullany

Other gifts:
1.      Austen bag offered by Karen Wasylowski
2.     DVD Pride & Prejudice 2005 offered by Regina Jeffers
3.     Package of Bingley's Tea.  (flavour  "Marianne's Wild Abandon" ) offered by Cindy Jones
4.     DVD Jane Austen in Manhattan offered by Maria Grazia
5.     3 issues of Jane Austen Regency World offered by Maria Grazia

Giveaways will end on the 23rd.  Winners will be announced on My Jane Austen Book Club

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Skating Party in Willoughby's Return

As I look through my window this morning I see Jack Frost has been in the night decorating the trees and hedges with ice crystals and sprinkling the grass with fairy sparkles and spangles. There is a robin chirruping on the holly tree, his scarlet breast glowing as he surveys the scene. The picture could be from a Christmas card and all it needs is a large red velvet ribbon to frame it in a swag and bow.
The wintry weather here in England reminded me of this extract in Willoughby's Return. Margaret Dashwood and her sister Marianne Brandon are in London for the season. The snow has arrived and they are tempted out to enjoy the wintry weather by Margaret's friends. However, Marianne has not reckoned on bumping into a certain person she would really wish to avoid at all costs.

Mr Carey and his sister came with an invitation for Margaret to go skating with them in Hyde Park on Thursday. The Serpentine had frozen to a solid thickness, they reported, adding that Mr Mortimer and his sister were to be of the party also. Their excitement at the scheme soon infected Margaret with the idea that this venture might be as fun as it was proclaimed and so she accepted.
The following afternoon, as good as their word, the party called. Marianne greeted them in the hallway as they arrived.
“I do hope that you will consider joining us, Mrs Brandon,” pronounced Charles.
“Oh, Mr Carey, that is very kind of you,” Marianne answered, “but I am sure you young people won’t need me to chaperone you.”
“Marianne, please come,” entreated Margaret, who thought the change of scene would do her sister good. Moreover, she considered that another person added to the party could only be of benefit, although she was glad to see that Charles spent all his time observing Caroline Mortimer when he thought no one was looking. Indeed, his behaviour toward that young lady was becoming very particular, she surmised.
Everyone declared how much they would all enjoy Mrs Brandon’s company. Before she could make any further protest against their entreaties, Margaret summoned a warm pelisse and fur muff for Marianne to face the chill outside.
The main roads were quite clear so that the carriages made steady progress, arriving at Hyde Park in a very short while. All were astonished to see the great crowds of people intent on trudging through the snow for their amusement. Children with sledges slid down any likely hump in the landscape, their faces bright with laughter. Snow figures lined the roadways and a crowd of rowdy youths pelted one another with snowballs. As they approached the frozen lake, Margaret craned her neck to see the wintry scene. She had heard of famous frost fairs in London when the great River Thames had frozen over but nothing had prepared her for the sight of the Serpentine Lake fringed with glowing lanterns in the dim afternoon light, the branches of trees dipping their lacy fingers into the polished, black ice. Crossing and re-crossing the vast expanse skated a myriad of figures in a stately ballet, silhouetted against ribbon streams of sunshine in tints of rosy pink to gild the clouds. There were icemen sweeping and burnishing the lagoon to a gleaming finish, hiring out skates for those intrepid enough to try them. Several booths had been set up from which hot ginger wine, ale, or brandy could be purloined. The costermongers were setting up shop by selling fruit, their wives tempting weary skaters with oysters and hot meat pies. The noise of people shouting, cheering, and laughing echoed in the still air to the accompaniment of cracking ice, loud as a firing musket.
They soon had their skates on and were taking their first cautious steps upon the ice. The frozen water was very thick; leaves imprisoned in layers within the depths gleamed like amber jewels in Venetian glass. Margaret linked arms with her sister and before long Miss Carey and Miss Mortimer joined them. They kept up a swift pace to skate behind the gentleman and were soon out of breath, Marianne begging them to stop so that she could rest for a while.
“I cannot go any further,” she cried. “I will stop awhile and watch if you will excuse me.”
“Then I will sit with you,” added Margaret, holding onto her sister’s arm.
“That is quite unnecessary,” Marianne insisted, “you go on or the others will disappear. I am quite happy to sit on this bench until you have exhausted yourselves. Go and have fun!”
Marianne sat down, watching her breath in little puffs on the cold air gradually slow to a normal rhythm. Margaret disappeared from view. It was very gratifying to see her laugh again, thought Marianne. Miss Carey and Miss Mortimer were clearly intent on making her feel most welcome into their circle. Skating had lifted her spirits too. It was only now that she began to wonder about Brandon again. There had been no more post since last week but she knew that the weather was responsible for that.
“Will you take a turn with me, Aunt Brandon?”
Henry Lawrence’s voice brought Marianne out of her reverie. She looked up to see not only Mr Lawrence standing before her grinning from ear to ear, but also Mr Willoughby at his side, regarding her with an air of study.
“Good afternoon Mr Lawrence, Mr Willoughby,” Marianne managed to say. She was shocked enough to see Henry here at all but the recollection of Willoughby’s gift was enough to emblazon her cheeks the same hue as the setting sun.


The painting I've chosen to go with it was originally painted for a cover I did for Fenella J Miller for her book, Miss Bennet and Mr Bingley. I thought it would be very suitable to illustrate this post.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pride and Prejudice, November 26th

In Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth goes touring to Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle they visit Pemberley and to Lizzy's horror she comes face to face with Mr Darcy. She's really embarrassed because she's turned down his marriage proposal and she is mortified at what he will think of her looking over his house and grounds. But, it's at this point in the book that Darcy starts to show that he's really taken notice of Elizabeth's criticisms of him and he makes an enormous effort to be extra civil and attentive to her and her relatives.

During the visit he introduces his sister Georgiana, and Lizzy discovers that Bingley is with him also. Her sister Jane is in love with Bingley, and been disappointed by him. Yet, it is very clear that he has not stopped thinking about Jane and this is proved when he remembers the exact date when he saw and danced with her last - November 26th.

Here's an extract from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice followed by one of my favourite scenes that takes place during the Derbyshire visit from the BBC Pride and Prejudice with that 'look' from Mr Darcy!


Miss Darcy and her brother appeared, and this formidable introduction took place. With astonishment did Elizabeth see that her new acquaintance was at least as much embarrassed as herself. Since her being at Lambton, she had heard that Miss Darcy was exceedingly proud; but the observation of a very few minutes convinced her that she was only exceedingly shy. She found it difficult to obtain even a word from her beyond a monosyllable.

Miss Darcy was tall, and on a larger scale than Elizabeth; and, though little more than sixteen, her figure was formed, and her appearance womanly and graceful. She was less handsome than her brother; but there was sense and good-humour in her face, and her manners were perfectly unassuming and gentle. Elizabeth, who had expected to find in her as acute and unembarrassed an observer as ever Mr. Darcy had been, was much relieved by discerning such different feelings.

They had not been long together before Darcy told her that Bingley was also coming to wait on her; and she had barely time to express her satisfaction, and prepare for such a visitor, when Bingley's quick step was heard on the stairs, and in a moment he entered the room. All Elizabeth's anger against him had been long done away; but had she still felt any, it could hardly have stood its ground against the unaffected cordiality with which he expressed himself on seeing her again. He inquired in a friendly, though general way, after her family, and looked and spoke with the same good-humoured ease that he had ever done.

To Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner he was scarcely a less interesting personage than to herself. They had long wished to see him. The whole party before them, indeed, excited a lively attention. The suspicions which had just arisen of Mr. Darcy and their niece directed their observation towards each with an earnest though guarded inquiry; and they soon drew from those inquiries the full conviction that one of them at least knew what it was to love. Of the lady's sensations they remained a little in doubt; but that the gentleman was overflowing with admiration was evident enough.

Elizabeth, on her side, had much to do. She wanted to ascertain the feelings of each of her visitors; she wanted to compose her own, and to make herself agreeable to all; and in the latter object, where she feared most to fail, she was most sure of success, for those to whom she endeavoured to give pleasure were prepossessed in her favour. Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and Darcy determined, to be pleased. In seeing Bingley, her thoughts naturally flew to her sister; and oh! how ardently did she long to know whether any of his were directed in a like manner. Sometimes she could fancy that he talked less than on former occasions, and once or twice pleased herself with the notion that, as he looked at her, he was trying to trace a resemblance. But, though this might be imaginary, she could not be deceived as to his behaviour to Miss Darcy, who had been set up as a rival to Jane. No look appeared on either side that spoke particular regard. Nothing occurred between them that could justify the hopes of his sister. On this point she was soon satisfied; and two or three little circumstances occurred ere they parted, which, in her anxious interpretation, denoted a recollection of Jane not untinctured by tenderness, and a wish of saying more that might lead to the mention of her, had he dared. He observed to her, at a moment when the others were talking together, and in a tone which had something of real regret, that it "was a very long time since he had had the pleasure of seeing her;" and, before she could reply, he added, "It is above eight months. We have not met since the 26th of November, when we were all dancing together at Netherfield."

Elizabeth was pleased to find his memory so exact; and he afterwards took occasion to ask her, when unattended to by any of the rest, whether all her sisters were at Longbourn. There was not much in the question, nor in the preceding remark; but there was a look and a manner which gave them meaning.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Radio Four Juvenile Jane

Blogger is being naughty this morning and won't let me post any pictures or hidden links!
I wanted to draw your attention to this wonderful programme about Jane Austen's early writing which can be listened to on BBC iplayer.
From the BBC with the link: Juvenile Jane - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00w1yqk

Listen now (30 minutes)
Availability:
6 days left to listen
Last broadcast yesterday, 11:30 on BBC Radio 4.
SYNOPSIS
Jane Austen's surprisingly neglected but delightfully precocious and revealing early works celebrated by Austen expert Janet Todd with the help of the writer and illustrator Posy Simmonds and the actor Anna Maxwell Martin.

Considering how frequently Jane Austen's six great novels are adapted for film, radio and television, it is perhaps surprising that the three small exercise books containing twenty two little stories and plays written during her teen years have not received more notice. Some of these stories - with titles such as "The Adventures of Mr Harley", "The Generous Curate" and "The Beautiful Cassandra" - are only a few lines long but others run to many pages and provide both entertainment and surprising insights into the development of the mature writer.

Austen expert Janet Todd leafs through two of the precious volumes which are held at the British Library in London and discusses their wonderfully uninhibited style and content with the writer and illustrator Posy Simmonds who has long been a fan of Austen and fascinated by juvenilia in general. It is well documented that, during her lifetime, the adult Jane Austen used to read from these books to her close family. For this programme, the actor Anna Maxwell Martin reads extensive extracts from three stories - "Frederick and Elfrida", "Henry and Eliza" and "love and Freindship" (sic) to reanimate them for a contemporary radio audience.

Producer Beaty Rubens.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bath at Night, Pulteney Street and Catherine Morland

Here are some photos of Bath at night showing Pulteney Street and Pulteney Bridge accompanied by a short extract from Northanger Abbey. Pulteney Street is where Catherine stays with her friends, the Allens, and apart from the cars looked very much as it does today.

I love this exchange between Catherine and her brother James which is full of Jane Austen's humour!

“Well, Catherine, how do you like my friend Thorpe?” instead of answering, as she probably would have done, had there been no friendship and no flattery in the case, “I do not like him at all,” she directly replied, “I like him very much; he seems very agreeable.”

“He is as good–natured a fellow as ever lived; a little of a rattle; but that will recommend him to your sex, I believe: and how do you like the rest of the family?”

“Very, very much indeed: Isabella particularly.”

“I am very glad to hear you say so; she is just the kind of young woman I could wish to see you attached to; she has so much good sense, and is so thoroughly unaffected and amiable; I always wanted you to know her; and she seems very fond of you. She said the highest things in your praise that could possibly be; and the praise of such a girl as Miss Thorpe even you, Catherine,” taking her hand with affection, “may be proud of.”

“Indeed I am,” she replied; “I love her exceedingly, and am delighted to find that you like her too. You hardly mentioned anything of her when you wrote to me after your visit there.”

“Because I thought I should soon see you myself. I hope you will be a great deal together while you are in Bath. She is a most amiable girl; such a superior understanding! How fond all the family are of her; she is evidently the general favourite; and how much she must be admired in such a place as this — is not she?”

“Yes, very much indeed, I fancy; Mr. Allen thinks her the prettiest girl in Bath.”

“I dare say he does; and I do not know any man who is a better judge of beauty than Mr. Allen. I need not ask you whether you are happy here, my dear Catherine; with such a companion and friend as Isabella Thorpe, it would be impossible for you to be otherwise; and the Allens, I am sure, are very kind to you?”

“Yes, very kind; I never was so happy before; and now you are come it will be more delightful than ever; how good it is of you to come so far on purpose to see me.”

James accepted this tribute of gratitude, and qualified his conscience for accepting it too, by saying with perfect sincerity, “Indeed, Catherine, I love you dearly.”

Inquiries and communications concerning brothers and sisters, the situation of some, the growth of the rest, and other family matters now passed between them, and continued, with only one small digression on James’s part, in praise of Miss Thorpe, till they reached Pulteney Street, where he was welcomed with great kindness by Mr. and Mrs. Allen, invited by the former to dine with them, and summoned by the latter to guess the price and weigh the merits of a new muff and tippet. A pre–engagement in Edgar’s Buildings prevented his accepting the invitation of one friend, and obliged him to hurry away as soon as he had satisfied the demands of the other. The time of the two parties uniting in the Octagon Room being correctly adjusted, Catherine was then left to the luxury of a raised, restless, and frightened imagination over the pages of Udolpho, lost from all worldly concerns of dressing and dinner, incapable of soothing Mrs. Allen’s fears on the delay of an expected dressmaker, and having only one minute in sixty to bestow even on the reflection of her own felicity, in being already engaged for the evening.



Monday, November 1, 2010

Shopping in Regency London, and Willoughby's Return

I've just been in Bath this last weekend and inevitably find myself wandering round the shops, which at this time of year is a real treat as there are all sorts of tempting gifts on offer with Christmas in mind. Jane Austen enjoyed a little bit of shopping too, if this next account is anything to go by. In 1811 she was staying with her brother Henry in Sloane Street to go through her edits on Sense and Sensibility. After Chawton village, London must have seemed to offer limitless choices. Here she is writing to her sister Cassandra and describes how she was tempted by the fabrics on offer, trimmings and stockings.
I am sorry to tell you that I am getting very extravagant, and spending all my money, and, what is worse for you, I have been spending yours too; for in a linendraper's shop to which I went for checked muslin, and for which I was obliged to give seven shillings a yard, I was tempted by a pretty-coloured muslin, and bought ten yards of it on the chance of your liking it; but, at the same time, if it should not suit you, you must not think yourself at all obliged to take it; it is only 3s. 6d. per yard, and I should not in the least mind keeping the whole. In texture it is just what we prefer, but its resemblance to green crewels, I must own, is not great, for the pattern is a small red spot. And now I believe I have done all my commissions except Wedgwood.
I liked my walk very much; it was shorter than I had expected, and the weather was delightful. We set off immediately after breakfast, and must have reached Grafton House by half-past 11; but when we entered the shop the whole counter was thronged, and we waited full half an hour before we could be attended to. When we were served, however, I was very well satisfied with my purchases -- my bugle trimming at 2s. 4d. and three pair silk stockings for a little less than 12s. a pair.

In Willoughby's Return I wanted to show how exciting it would have been for a young Margaret Dashwood to arrive in London to stay with Marianne and the Colonel. Margaret is starting to attend dances and balls, and she has her own beau, Henry Lawrence, who calls to take her to Gunter's tea-shop. When I was researching Willoughby's Return, I visited the shopping areas that Jane Austen mentions in Sense and Sensibility in the area around Bond Street where it it still possible to imagine what it must have been like to go shopping in Jane's day. Sadly, Gunter's teashop is no longer in Berkeley Square, and much of it has been modernised. Here, in the following extract Margaret comes to London for the first time and is driven down the thoroughfare to admire the shops.
After travelling for three days with two nights spent in comfortable inns, Margaret felt tired but elated to find that they were entering London and being driven down Oxford Street at last, moments from their destination. Fascinated by everything she saw, marvelling at the shops on every side, Margaret exclaimed at all she witnessed. Watchmakers, silk stores, and silversmiths displayed their wares behind sparkling glass, illuminated by the amber glow of oil lamps. Exotic fruit and towering desserts in the fruiterers and confectioners formed a dazzling spectacle; pyramids of pineapples, figs, and grapes cascaded from porcelain epergne. Marchpane castles, rosewater creams, and fruited cake vied for attention on platters of every shape and size. And the crowds of people stretching across the wide pavements, the ladies gathered outside in admiration of the linen shops, draped with silks, chintzes, and muslins were a sight to behold; such fashionably dressed gentility as Margaret had never seen before.
Later on, Henry arrives to take Margaret for her promised visit to the famous teashop. They were interrupted by Henry’s arrival. He greeted them both with great cordiality and immediately applied to Marianne for permission to take Margaret out in his curricle.
“I hope you will grant this small wish, my dear Aunt Brandon,” he beseeched her, “We have a little time before the dinner hour and I promised Margaret I would take her to Gunter’s on our very first afternoon. There may not be another chance. My mother has gone to see her dressmaker and my father set off for his club as soon as he arrived, so you see, I would be left all alone and feeling very miserable if not for this opportunity to sample London’s supreme ices and your sister’s finest company.”
Marianne recognised the look in Margaret’s eyes, which begged her agreement to the scheme. Nodding her approval, she was amused to see them hasten out of the room with hardly a nod or a backward glance. As Margaret wrested her pelisse and bonnet from the arms of the waiting servant, giving no time to fastenings or ribbons, the front door opened as if conspiring to let them out as quickly as possible.
“Good day, Uncle Brandon,” shouted Henry, taking Margaret’s arm with a movement toward the iron railings and white steps as the Colonel passed through into the hallway. “Please forgive me for not stopping, but Miss Margaret and I have an appointment to keep.”
With barely a nod of his head or a curtsey from his friend, the pair escaped as Colonel Brandon started to open his mouth to acknowledge them. With a bemused expression he watched them mount Henry’s vehicle and drive away at a trot.
Henry’s route was not the most direct but all the more colourful for riding down New Bond Street so that Margaret should be able to see the very best of the shops from her wonderful vantage point. After the relative quiet of life in Devon and Dorset, she could not believe how noisy London was to her ears; not only the sound of rumbling carriages and carts, but the clatter of pattens on pavements and the distinctive cries of street sellers rang everywhere about. Henry pointed out the landmarks and shops, not failing to direct Margaret’s attention to any sight, which he thought might amuse or entertain. They were in high spirits as they trotted into Bruton Street.
“I’ll take you to Piccadilly and Hyde Park next time,” Henry announced, reining in his horse as they rapidly approached their destination. “Here we are arrived at Berkeley Square for your pleasure and there under the sign of the pineapple is Mr Gunter’s celebrated tea shop. Now, which is your favourite ice?”
“I have no idea,” Margaret admitted, “I really have little experience of exotic flavours such as I have heard Marianne describe.”
Helping her down from his equipage and taking her across the road to see the window of the shop with every variety of ice imaginable, Margaret was stunned into silence by the display. Glasses of fruit ice decorated with crystallised rose and violet petals, sugar baskets filled with painted paste flowers and artificial gardens with parterres of mousseline and gravel walks of sugar sand occupied every tier in the window. Pastilles de chocolat, curled wafers, and candied jonquils overflowed from bonbonnieres onto snowy cloths. But the centrepiece, a sugar turban on a tasselled cushion complete with flowers, crescents, and a tall, waving feather, made Margaret catch her breath with pleasure.

I often go into London just before the Christmas rush just to look at the window displays which is almost as much fun as shopping itself. Some of the large department stores like Fortnum and Mason, Selfridges, and Liberty's have stunning displays. What are your favourite shops that you like to visit?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts


Here are a couple of interesting links to news about Jane Austen on the net which discuss Jane's books being heavily edited and there is even a suggestion that she was a bad speller. How can they say such a thing?!

Here's one from the Guardian which does at least try to defend our Jane! There are also some interesting comments below the article where the general public have added their three penny worth!

If you'd like to judge for yourself, head on over to Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts where you can see some 1100 pages of fiction written in Jane's own hand. It is indeed wonderful to see that she too had messy jottings, which surely as a toiling writer is the only way to work. I have to say I find it extremely heartening to see that she didn't write it all down perfectly. Can you imagine how thrilled she would have been if she'd had access to our modern technology where it is so easy to delete mistakes and write new drafts, not to mention having built-in access to a thesaurus and spell-checker. Then again, we wouldn't have had these wonderful treasures which prove she was a true artist seeking perfection in all that she wrote.
I still like to scribble down notes in pen or pencil when I'm getting ideas for a new book rather than using my laptop straight away. If you could, would you go back to the simple pleasures of pen and paper, or are you happiest in our computer age?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Jane Austen's House Museum - part two!

Recently Amanda Grange and I had a lovely day out at Jane Austen's House Museum - don't you think we look very much at home? Jane Austen moved to Chawton, a large cottage on her brother Edward's estate in July 1809. It was possibly a former coaching inn at one time and in Jane's day was a busier place as coaches rumbled past the windows day and night. One of Jane's nieces remembered how comforting it was 'to have the awful stillness of night frequently broken by the sound of many passing carriages, which seemed sometimes even to shake the bed' - perhaps not a sentiment that would be enjoyed by many today. Jane Austen looked forward to the move. After her father's death in Bath, their circumstances had been greatly reduced and eventually they had moved to Southampton to live with one of the sailor brothers. An opportunity for a home of their own for the Austen women was not a chance to be passed up, and Jane looked forward to buying a piano again instead of renting one as she had had to do in Bath and Southampton. '...as good a one as can be got for thirty guineas, and I will practise country dances, that we may have some amusement for our nephews and nieces, when we have the pleasure of their company.'
Jane's sister-in-law thought the rector of Chawton, Mr Papillon, might be a suitable marriage prospect for Jane. In a letter Jane joked about it in typical fashion - 'depend upon it that I will marry Mr Papillon, whatever may be his reluctance or mine.'

Jane and her sister Cassandra became increasingly responsible for running the household. Mrs Austen devoted herself to the garden and needlework. When the sisters were at home it was Jane's responsibility to make the breakfast and to order tea, sugar and look after the wine stores. When Jane came down in the morning she would start the day with practising on her piano so as not to disturb the others later on. She would then put the kettle on and make the breakfast. Cassandra took care of all the other household chores giving Jane invaluable time to write. It was at Chawton that she started to revise the books she had already written - Elinor and Marianne, which became Sense and Sensibility, and First Impressions, which became Pride and Prejudice. Though callers could see her writing through the window a creaky door gave her warning when anyone was about to enter the room. She would cover her work and was able to keep her writing secret.
The house remains largely unchanged today. It is still possible to wander through the sitting room, dining room and bedrooms where Jane walked and worked, and to see examples of clothing and jewellery that belonged to her. Recently, the kitchen has been renovated, and there is a new bookshop which sells not only a wonderful selection of books, but lots of other momentoes and souvenirs.
Walking through the village gives a sense of going back in time, and a walk to the 'Great House' where her brother Edward and his family lived must have very similar views to the ones back then with old cottages lining the road. At the church you can find the graves of Jane's sister and mother. I always feel it's rather sad that Jane is buried in Winchester away from them and far from the place that she loved.
We had a lovely day out - it's a place I never tire of going to see!


Monday, October 18, 2010

A Day Out At Jane Austen's House Museum, Chawton

I had such a busy week last week packed full of exciting things. I have to tell you my life is usually a very ordinary one spent writing and looking after my family. But last week was full of magical days and even a larger than life evening or two. It started off when I met Monica Fairview and Victoria Connelly in London before we went off to a dinner given by our wonderful publisher Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks.
I met Monica and Victoria in St. James's in the afternoon so we could have a wander round, soak up some Regency history, and look at the shops. You can see a photo of Monica and I standing with a statue of Beau Brummel in Jermyn Street at the end of the Piccadilly arcade. Further along is the wonderful Floris perfume shop which is celebrating its 280 year anniversary this year. There were some gorgeous examples of old perfume bottles and packaging displayed in the shop, and the very kind assistant told us that some of the popular perfumes of the day were Jasmine, Stephanotis and Lime, even spraying particular scents so we could get an idea. We wandered down St James's Street next - home to Colonel Brandon in London, if you remember. This part of London was typically the haunt of gentlemen, housing the famous clubs of White's, Boodles and Brooks's (still in existence today) and Jane Austen definitely would not have been seen wandering around here by herself.

Then it was time to go to our Sourcebooks dinner where I must admit I was very starry-eyed to be sitting in such august company as Barbara Erskine, Elizabeth Chadwick, Jill Mansell, Erica James, Freya North and Wendy Holden to name but a few of the authors, as well as lovely friends Monica, Victoria and Amanda Grange . It was a splendid meal in a gorgeous room of the Reform Club in Pall Mall. We did wonder what all the portraits on the walls would say if they could talk as they looked down on a room full of chattering female authors - every portrait was male, and some of them appeared to be highly displeased! In the photo Thackeray looks down on Amanda Grange and I!

The following day I met up with Amanda Grange at Jane Austen's House Museum at Chawton. I haven't been for a while, but I always feel as if I'm visiting old friends, and the feeling that Jane might just walk into the room is always there. The house has a homely feel, and although it has changed in small details over the years it still retains the sense of being a well-loved home. The new shop is gorgeous. Amanda took the opportunity to do some book signings in the shop before we explored the house. I spent far too much money on books, and if you'd like to see what they have on offer you can visit their online shop. The following photos show Amanda and I standing outside the house, then two of Jane's bedroom where there is a lovely example of a tent bed and this gorgeous dress on display. I didn't like to take too many photos inside because flash photography is not a good idea where old artefacts might be damaged, but I'll be posting a few more at a later date. What I love about Jane Austen's House is the fact that they have personal items that belonged to Jane and her family. You can see Jane's bead bracelet and the topaz crosses that Jane's brother Charles bought for his sisters, the red riding coat that belonged to Mrs Austen, and a patchwork quilt made by Jane, Cassandra, and their mother. In glass display cases there are mother of pearl 'fish' such as Lydia Bennet won in Pride and Prejudice, little Regency dolls, ivory letters spelling out the words BLUNDER, and DIXON as in Jane's novel, Emma, and there is even the little needlecase that Jane made for her niece. Christening caps, a bonnet, a lace shawl and replica costumes really give the flavour of the fashion of the time helping to give a sense of the people who lived in the house.
We finished up in the kitchen which has been newly restored - wonder why I felt so at home!








Monday, October 11, 2010

Regency Parade - Part Two!

I thought you might like to see some more of the photos from the Regency Promenade at the start of the Jane Austen Festival. The costumes were incredible! I can't make a mention of Bath without thinking of Northanger Abbey or Persuasion. So many of the girls looked as excited as Catherine Morland that I have to include this extract. This first photo shows a view of Great Pulteney Street where Catherine lodged with Mrs Allen. 

They arrived at Bath. Catherine was all eager delight — her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs, and afterwards drove through those streets which conducted them to the hotel. She was come to be happy, and she felt happy already.

They were soon settled in comfortable lodgings in Pulteney Street.

...our heroine’s entree into life could not take place till after three or four days had been spent in learning what was mostly worn, and her chaperone was provided with a dress of the newest fashion. Catherine too made some purchases herself, and when all these matters were arranged, the important evening came which was to usher her into the Upper Rooms. Her hair was cut and dressed by the best hand, her clothes put on with care, and both Mrs. Allen and her maid declared she looked quite as she should do. With such encouragement, Catherine hoped at least to pass uncensured through the crowd. As for admiration, it was always very welcome when it came, but she did not depend on it.










Monday, October 4, 2010

A Regency Promenade in Bath at the Jane Austen Festival

I thought you might like to see some photos that were taken of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. At the start of the festival there is a grand Regency parade where huge numbers of people turn out in their favourite period dress. There were some spectacular outfits, gorgeous bonnets and hats, not to mention accessories. I met fellow author Victoria Connelly at the Pump Rooms for the start of the parade, and it was also lovely to meet up with Isa from Malaga who often stops by to visit my blog. Poor Isa discovered she had mumps when she got home - I hope you're on the mend now!
What made it extra special was to see so many gentleman attired, and didn't they all look splendid! The promenaders take a tour through the town walking up Milsom Street, George Street, and onto Gay Street, which leads to the Circus, and the Royal Crescent beyond. If you'd like to see more photos and some more about my day with Victoria Connelly, head on over to Austen Authors.Here we are at the end of the walk at the Royal Crescent.