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Showing posts from September, 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

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, acco…

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…

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 cha…

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 ha…

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 …

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 ev…

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.

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 …

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 s…

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 W…

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!

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 th…

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 co…

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 e…

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.

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 na…