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Old Grey Pony

Quizzes, coxcombs and old grey ponies. Discussig the novels of Jane Austen within the context of the Georgian Era.

Updated: 2017-09-16T03:59:02.699-07:00


New Stables


Old Grey Pony has moved.

Chez Grey is now Old Grey Pony at WordPress

See you on the other side of the paddock.

Accident and Coincidence in Persuasion. Part Two.


It is during the significant turning point of Persuasion’s storyline, the visit to Lyme, that the accidents of Uppercross come to a head, and where the strands of the web holding Wentworth close to Louisa Musgrove and away from Anne shift and snap in their course. The visit to Lyme heralds the closing of the country setting and the opening of the Bath one, and the change from country accidents to town coincidences.

The climax of the bond between Louisa and Wentworth, a frenzy of school-girlish admiration on her side and careless enjoyment on his, comes in the form of Persuasion’s most significant accident, Louisa’s near tragic fall on the Cobb at Lyme. The intimacy between Wentworth and Louise is child like and during their walks around Uppercross ‘he had had to jump her from the stiles’ as ‘the sensation was delightful to her’. From the steps on the Cobb Louisa insists Wentworth catches her, which he does, but a second, too precipitous jump leaves her seriously injured, concussed, unconscious for a period and bedridden during a long convalescence at Lyme. Louisa’s accident puts crucial developments into motion, realizations and reactions that pull Wentworth away from her and towards Anne:

…he had seen everything to exalt in his estimation the woman he had lost; and there begun to deplore the pride, the folly, the madness of resentment, which had kept him from trying to regain her when thrown in his way

Louisa’s obstinacy in jumping despite warnings of danger and Anne’s quick thinking and sensible reactions to the emergency, his feelings of guilt and responsibility and the group’s assuming there to be agreement between himself and Louisa force Wentworth to analyze his actions of the past few weeks, and to acknowledge his obligation to Louisa even while he confronts the reality that he is still very much in love with Anne, but honor bound to Louisa.

But as Louisa recovers she begins to fall in love with, and to be loved by, Captain Benwick. Benwick’s fiancé had died the previous summer while he was at sea, an accidental chance that left Benwick broken hearted and in need of healing himself. And though he could not be at the sickbed of Fanny Harville, he could be by Louisa Musgrove’s. The quiet, nervous girl that Louisa emerges as is the patient that Benwick can nurse, and the bookish, intelligent and kind Captain is exactly the man to now capture her heart. The news of their engagement frees Wentworth of any obligation and propels him to Bath in search of Anne, her love and her hand. But in Bath he also finds a man the narrative had introduced ever so teasingly, by coincidence of course, at Lyme: Anne’s estranged cousin Mr Elliot.

To be continued.

Progess. It's Mighty Satisfying.


I am back from our sojourn on Salt Spring Island, where you can be sure that though I got in many Austen style long country walks, the activities mostly boiled down to sitting around doing nothing but eating, drinking and basking in the sun and occasionally foraging for sun warmed blackberries, peaches, apples and figs. A city dweller has to make the most of fresh fruit, fresh air and sea breezes after all but it was my birthday and I celebrated by sitting down an awful lot and partaking of our host's fine beverages and cheeses. I really am quite amazed by how much a person can put away when they're on holiday, it's like psychological appetite enhancement.

I must humbly ask that my dear readership, parva sed apta, stand by me with angelic patience while I take yet a little more time off from writing. After more than twelve months of worry, of fussing about with paperwork, of pushing forward blind and not really knowing where were going and lamenting not having a lawyer, I've recently been notified that next week I am being granted my Canadian residency, for as some of you already know I'm Australian and married to a Canuck. My residency will finally allow me to work, study and leave the country. Though I'm just across the border in Vancouver I haven't been able to visit America in almost two years and I'll tell you, the stores in Seattle that carry Tom's Shoes and Ethiopian coffee beans and competitively priced liquor are not going to know what hit them. Me. In a caffeine fueled, Tom's wearing shopping frenzy with my Seattle based sister in law. (Hi Dieringers!)

But that's for later. Right now I need a little time to prepare for my entr
é into Canadian Residency. I'll still be manning Old Grey Pony as before when I've gotten myself organized. In the meantime, here's a few points of interest.

  1. Many Books is a fantastic resource from which you can download many books in PDF, eBook or iPod Notes format, and from where I just acquired some long desired works of Elizabeth von Arnim.
  2. Many readers of Jane Austen's novels and short stories enjoy a dive into the dubious world of Austen film and TV adaptations and I'm not immune to an occasional dip myself. I have seen every, and I mean every, adaptation and the only ones I can recommend unreservedly are Persuasion 1995 (Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds) and Northanger Abbey 1986 (Peter Firth and Katharine Schlesinger).
  3. It has nothing to do with Austen but I think Indexed is adorable. Enjoy.

Back in a week or so.

Thanks for reading.


Short Haitus


Mr Hasenauer and I are getting out of the city for a few days and will be on holiday on Salt Spring Island, rusticating in a wee cabin on a vineyard.

Posts will begin again shortly on the 25th of August.


Extra Long Georgian Item of the Week


Emma, Lady Hamilton c. 1765 - 1815Study of Emma Hart as Circecirca 1782-85George RomneyTate Gallery, London One of the most scandalous relationships of Georgian England was the devoted alliance between Emma, Lady Hamilton and the hero of the nation, Horatio Nelson. Like any public and unconventional woman, an inordinate amount has been written about Lady Hamilton, much of it unflattering and most of it untrue. The daughter of a Blacksmith, Emma, born Amy Lyon in Cheshire circa 1761-5, at the age of sixteen or seventeen was a most ravishingly beautiful girl who had become the full time mistress of the Hon. Charles Greville in London after having been very lately abandoned pregnant by her former lover Sir Harry Fetherstonehaugh. Before her entry into the demi-monde Lyon worked as nursemaid in two or three private houses. Greville set her and her widowed mother up in their own home and Amy Lyon thereafter went by the more upwardly mobile name of Mrs Emma Hart. Her daughter Emma Carew was brought up by her grandmother in Wales.During the five years she lived with Greville, Emma sat more than 100 times for the painter George Romney. Though a majority of these sittings were by Romney's obsessive desire, many of them were commissioned by Greville and it was the cost of these portraits that helped contribute to the massive personal debts that forced Greville to give Emma up in 1786 in search of a wealthy bride. Greville sent her to Naples to be the guest of his uncle Sir William Hamilton, leading vulcanologist and British Envoy to Naples and a widower, with the expressed plan of following her shortly. In reality Greville intended to remain in England and marry an heiress, and that the fascinating, charismatic presence and angelic, Grecian beauty of Emma would prevent the already fond Sir William from remarrying elsewhere and thereby disinheriting him. After months of waiting faithfully for Greville, the reality of her situation dawned on her and Emma became instead Sir William's mistress, whom she admired and grew to love, and as such she was educated and 'finished', the benefits of elocution, foreign language and singing lessons added to her natural graces, and in 1791 he married her, much to the chagrin no doubt of Charles Greville.As Lady Hamilton Emma was literally the toast of Naples society. She was a favourite at the Neapolitan court of Kind Ferdinand IV and the close friend and confident of the Queen, Maria Carolina (sister of Marie Antoinette of France). In Naples she developed her Attitudes, a repetoire of tableaux vivant poses representing classical characters from Ancient Greek andRoman history, that became famous and much admired in Europe by many, including writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe and composer Joseph Hadyn, other artists and academics and many of the members of parliament, of royal families and of aristocracies within Sir William's vast and varied ambassadorial and scientific circles. Illustration:Emma Hamilton as the Goddess of Health (Vestina)circa 1786-90Robert CoswayThe National Maritime Museum LondonAlthough Emma was very beautiful, it was the way she could embody a character as an ideal and her eye for the visually artistic, the skills of a good model and a muse, that made her prized by many painters as a subject, including Vigée le Brun, Marie Antoinette's friend and principal portrait artist. The Neoclassicism of the Enlightenment and the European Republican admiration for Ancient Greece and Rome were the driving forces behind the radical change of dress in the Georgian period and the simple, classical, Grecian costumes of Lady Hamilton's Attitudes were hugely influential on the Directoire and Empire styles of women's dress in Europe and Britain. Lady Hamilton was certainly not clever, she could be very critical and she had a healthy appetite for admiration, and for wine but she was also good company, warm, loyal, an excellent wife to Sir William and a widely respected society hostess.Emm[...]

Philosophical Gothic


Residents of Vancouver BC may be interested to know that in January 2008 the East Vancouver Cultural Centre will be housing the Catalyst Theatre's very well received production of Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was published in 1818. The production is an original and faithful adaptation by Jonathan Christenson.

Photo by Photomagic featuring Tracey Penner

Books on Tape Techie Time: iTunesU Podcasts


Life can be so sweet when you least expect it. It's not as if I was having a boring Friday night but certainly it was well behaved. While we here at Chez Old Grey Pony were relaxing on the sofa, eating spaghetti, listening to music and gleefully playing with our facebook pages, we couldn't help but wistfully think of our more cashed up acquaintances drinking wine and eating tapas on a restaurant patio somewhere late into the summer evening. But, ours is the fate of all who must pay off student loans and I cheerfully sat down to stroll through my iTunes podcast menu while the blueberry muffins we were baking were in the oven.Little did I expect to come across The Greatest Podcast of All Time.iTunesU features a brand new selection of free podcasts created and published by universities for their students and the Lit2Go (love the name) cast created by the University of South Florida is phenomenal and includes, among many others, a fantastic reading of Sense and Sensibility in the Group 9 collection and Northanger Abbey in the Group 12 collection. I don't know who the narrator is but his voice and his style of reading are excellent and it's very refreshing to listen to an Austen novel read by a male narrator for a change, and who is much more talented at reading than some of the actors narrating purchasable titles.Lit2Go is very exciting and features many classics, too many to mention here but a quick look reveals several Georgian and Austen related works, including:The Castle of Otranto by Horace WalpoleThe Mysteries of Udolpho and The Castles of Athlin and Dublayne by Ann RadcliffeFrankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary ShelleyThe Purple Jar by Maria EdgeworthThere are so many more and a quick special mention to the Brontë sisters, Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Lewis Carroll and Virginia Woolf, as well as poetry and traditional readings and also another collection En Espaňol. Nice one, University of South Florida. If you do not have iTunes already, you may download it free of charge on the Apple website.I'm going to have a good old browse through the rest of iTunesU and a blueberry muffin.[...]

Belated Georgian Item of the Week


Scientists: Joseph Priestley 1733 - 1804


Joseph Priestley
circa 1801
Rembrandt Peale
The Trout Gallery Dickinson College, PA

A native of West Yorkshire, Joseph Priestley was a natural philosopher, chemist, educator and Dissenting clergyman, and he is credited with the discovery of the existence of oxygen. A clergyman-chemist, Priestley called the gas he discovered, "dephlogisticated air." It was French physicist Antoine Lavoisier, a great admirer of Priestley’s, who named it oxygen. Priestley, a close friend of Benjamin Franklin, experimented with electricity before turning his attention to chemistry in the early 1770s. His other discoveries include hydrochloric acid, nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and sulfur dioxide, and he invented soda water.

Priestley’s contributions to education were as important as those to science. He was the first British educator to insist on the value of modern history as a subject and that a thorough understanding of history was necessary not only to worldly success but also to spiritual growth. Priestley was innovative in the teaching and description of English grammar, particularly his efforts to disassociate it from Latin grammar, and the founder of the first liberal arts curriculum. He communicated with Thomas Jefferson regarding the proper organization of a university and when Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, it was Priestley's curricular principles that dominated the school. No wonder it’s so awesome.

Priestley helped found the Unitarian church and was a supporter of the French Revolution, and due to his nonconformist views, in 1791 a mob destroyed his house and laboratory in Birmingham. This episode and subsequent troubles made him decide to emigrate to the United States, where he died in 1804 in Pennsylvania. His house on Priestley Avenue, Northumberland PA, with the first scientific laboratory in America, may still be visited

Accidents and Coincidence in Persuasion


Anne Elliot and her two suitors Captain Wentworth and Mr Elliot, are traveling in a web of accidents and coincidences in Persuasion. This web puts them all in the same field, gives both suitors the advantage of luck and mystery, yet keeps them tangled away from Anne, struggling and gradually moving in their necessary directions, towards and away from her, as the novel progresses. Wentworth is most strongly associated with luck and lucky accidents. At the time of his youthful engagement to Anne he had already 'been lucky in his profession’ and later Admiral Croft comments on his luck at having been assigned the Laconia by the navy, in which he had chanced to take enough privateers and war bounty to make him rich. Coinciding with his return from the war, his sister and brother-in-law the Crofts ‘accidentally hear’ of Kellynch Hall being to let while at Taunton, and thus the new tenants of Kellynch, Anne’s rightful home and the scene of her historic courtship, are the immediate family of her one time fiancé, and expecting Wentworth moreover to stay with them. While Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot decamp to Bath, Anne embarks on a long visit to her married sister Mary in the adjoining neighbourhood of Uppercross and, given the sociable habits of the Uppercross family, the Musgroves, she is understandably uneasy at the prospect of socializing with a man whom she had been persuaded to break off an engagement with eight years earlier, who has improved with time while she has faded, and with whom she is still in love. But a Persuasion accident allows her to absent herself from the dinner party she was to first meet him again at, when her nephew suffers a bad fall from a tree. In order that the child’s parents may attend the dinner, she offers to stay at home and nurse the him, preventing a long, painful and public reunion for them both. A coincidence is discovered by Mrs Musgrove when she suddenly remembers that Wentworth was the one of the captains their son Richard had served under in the navy. Never much loved on land but having died at sea, the troublesome Dick’s association with Wentworth, who had encouraged him to write the only two letters that weren’t supplications for money that his parents ever received, gives a touchingly pathetic and grateful tinge to the already healthy Uppercross admiration for the captain. And at Uppercross, accidents and coincidences first seem to pull Wentworth towards Louisa Musgrove. The occurrence of accidents is a dominant motif throughout the narrative and never more so than on the day of the young people’s long walk to Winthrop, does this motif tie Anne, Louisa and Wentworth together. Whilst Anne is mediating on poetry that depicts the sweets of autumn, Wentworth tells of the Crofts’ adventures in their gig: “…I wonder whereabouts they will upset to-day. Oh! it does happen very often, I assure you; but my sister makes nothing of it; she would as lieve be tossed out as not.""Ah! You make the most of it, I know," cried Louisa, "but if it were really so, I should do just the same in her place. If I loved a man, as she loves the Admiral, I would always be with him, nothing should ever separate us, and I would rather be overturned by him, than driven safely by anybody else."It was spoken with enthusiasm."Had you?" cried he, catching the same tone; "I honour you!" Anne’s thoughts ‘could not immediately fall into a quotation again’ after this exchange, understandably. Later on the Winthrop walk she accidentally overhears a conversation between Wentworth and Louisa. Having sat down to rest, ‘she very soon heard Captain Wentworth and Louisa in the hedge-row, behind her’, an accident which has two-fold significance. In one way, the exchange between Louisa and Wentworth draws him superficially closer to Louisa as he admires her strength of[...]



I'd be interested to learn others' feelings on reading Emma.

Among novelists who have written more than one or two books, for me it is happens most often that I will like only one or two of a particular writer's works, and it is very rare that something about the writer's style or subject matter will make me very keen, obsessed even at times, to read all of their books, usually as soon as possible. This occurred most strongly for me with Jean Rhys, George Eliot, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, (indeed, this was very nearly a Hardy blog) Fyodor Dostoevsky and of course, Jane Austen. With one notable exception.

I read Emma first when I was about seventeen and at the time probably simply thought as it as my least favourite Austen book, shelved it for three or four years and never thought about it.

In a fit of boredom I re-read it again years later, that time with more respect for the character writing but still with no great attachment to it and I remember calling Emma something along the lines of a self important airhead as I finished the book. I read it too in my Eng Lit class days and though my appreciation for the story grew and my dislike of the central character dwindled it was still the least interesting work in my book, and I didn't enter into the stance held by scholars who articles I read in lit journals, that it was Austen's most complex work. At the time I thought it as light, relatively enjoyable but not significant reading.

Today, in the middle of reading Emma for the fourth time, I wonder how I could have been so blind. I'm astounded really that I never picked up on the depth of Emma before. Perhaps that it takes place in a inward looking, confined area squashed in with characters whom I could never like. Mr Knightley and Jane Fairfax are the most interesting and the reader's time with them is so limited, necessarily. I really can't put it down on this reading and am amazed that I disliked it so much before. I think perhaps it takes maturity to not misread Emma.

I'll be writing more about Emma once I've finished and I'm interested in your perceptions of the novel...

Georgian Item of the Week


The Abolition: Olaudah Equiano

(image) Portrait of Olaudah Equiano
Circa 1780
Previously attributed to Joshua Reynolds
Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter

Although forms of bondage had existed in West and Central Africa (and indeed in Europe) before the trans-Atlantic slave trade, human beings were rarely the main commodity at the African marketplace. In the modern world however, the enslaved African was inspected, assessed, auctioned, bought, sold and bartered by Europeans and treated in any manner his owner saw fit.

In 1788 an autobiographical work, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, was published in England, and which set the precedent for anti-slavery literature written by former slaves themselves, which would have a profound impact on the abolition movements in the eighteenth century. Equiano was born in what is modern day Nigeria and kidnapped by slave traders at the age of 11. He was owned by several masters, educated, adopted into Methodism and as he was allowed by his last owner to conduct business for himself, he eventually bought his freedom.

Among the tradition of slave narratives, Equiano's is considered a remarkable achievement since the autobiographical style was not a well-developed genre in the eighteenth century. His narrative has vivid details and is written in the picaresque style. Equiano provides a detailed account of his kidnapping, the unfathomable crossing of the Atlantic in the belly of a slave ship and the brutality, the bondage and the life he endured as a slave.

Impropriety by the Seaside. Part Three - Conclusion.


Parts One and Two HereWeymouth “Very lucky--marrying as they did, upon an acquaintance formed only in a public place!--They only knew each other, I think, a few weeks in Bath! Peculiarly lucky!-- for as to any real knowledge of a person's disposition that Bath, or any public place, can give--it is all nothing; there can be no knowledge.” What is Frank Churchill doing in Emma when he makes this statement at the Box Hill Picnic? Ridiculing the Eltons, whom this speech was about, and expressing his disdain for them? Carrying on the campaign of deceit in Highbury to hide his secret engagement with Jane Fairfax, which had also been formed on a few weeks' acquaintance in a public watering place, Weymouth, and having a private, ironic joke about it? Trifling with the affections of Jane Fairfax by insinuating that he might have tired of their engagement? He is doing all of these simultaneously and moreover, giving voice to an opinion generally held at the time about acquaintances formed in public, and especially watering, places.Mr Knightley holds this opinion himself and expresses it in his succinct history of their engagement: “He meets with a young woman at a watering-place, gains her affection, cannot even weary her by negligent treatment--and had he and all his family sought round the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found her superior.” The point being of course that at watering places such as Bath and Weymouth, unscrupulous men were far more likely to be snared by Isabella Thorpes and Lydia Bennets than be fortunate enough to gain the heart and hand of an incomparably superior Jane Fairfax. Interestingly, its Frank Churchill's impropriety that is more closely associated with seaside Weymouth than Jane Fairfax's. Even before he enters the storyline himself, he is depicted by Knightley as at his leisure in 'the idlest haunts in the kingdom' and 'forever at some watering-place or other' when it was his duty instead to visit his newly wedded father and stepmother in Highbury, though he had claimed to not be at liberty to do so. It is Weymouth furthermore that Emma envisions as the setting for feelings she imagines Jane Fairfax to have for Mr Dixon, a fantasy Frank Churchill encourages her in, pretending to speculate about illicit feelings between his own fiancé and Mr Dixon, a married man; an unfeeling ruse designed to turn any suspicious eyes away from himself. It was unseemly undoubtedly of Jane Fairfax to agree to an engagement, and a clandestine one at that, with a man who's guardians it's known as a certainty will object to her poverty despite her excellent character and real attachment to their kinsman. The treatment she receives from Frank Churchill and Emma however, the irksomeness of Mrs Elton's attentions and the tediousness of Miss Bates', and the very uncomfortable notion that such a woman as Jane Fairfax should have to waste her life as a governess, more than makes up for losing her head by the seaside, no? On the topic of Mrs Elton, Austen gives her two portions of association, and rightly so. She hails from Bristol, and is courted in Bath.Austen visited the seaside many times, and at many different spots, during her life. Impropriety by the seaside was on it's way to theming itself into an entire novel but Austen's last illness and her sad early death left her novel of a seaside town, entitled Sanditon unfinished The Sanditon fragment may be read here at the University of Virginia Library website.Conclusion[...]

Georgian Item of the Week


(image) Between the years 1729 and 1737 Henry Fielding wrote 25 plays, including his most well known, Tom Thumb but he acclaimed critical notice with his novels. The best known are The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), a picaresque novel in which the tangled comedies of coincidence are offset by the neat, architectonic structure of the story, and The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews (1742), a parody of Richardson's Pamela (1740). In 1734, he married Charlotte Cradock, who became his model for Sophia Western in Tom Jones and for the heroine of Amelia, the author's last novel.

In 1747, several years after Charlotte Fielding’s death, he caused some scandal by marrying his wife's maid and friend Mary Daniel - he was condemned by every snob in England. She was about to bear his child, and Fielding would not abandon her to disgrace.

Fielding's writings became more socially orientated – among other things, he opposed public hangings. After having studied the law throughout his life, he was appointed to the bar in 1740 and he was made justice of the peace for the City of Westminster in 1748 and for the county of Middlesex in 1749. He fought constantly against corruption and with his brother he set up the Bow Street Runners, a detective force that later turned into Scotland Yard. Fielding was a pioneer of the novel as an art form and Tom Jones has been the most admired of them all by many writers who followed him, including Jane Austen


Becoming Marketable


Biopics that meddle with historical figures and bend the facts to promote their agenda drive me crazy. At the same time, I love a good historical film. I am not immune to enjoying historical inaccuracy. A movie like Amadeus for example puts a person like me in a bit of a jam. On one hand, it’s a phenomenal production in every sense. On the other, it’s a total fabrication and thanks to it, Salieri will probably always be thought of by every body who takes biopics to be factual, as the murderer of Mozart. Which is really unfair if you happen to be Salieri; and which leads me again and unequivocally for the last time, to Becoming Jane. God, that title is so syrupy it makes me queasy. It is true that Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy had a short but animated flirtation, that they were very much attracted to one another, and that Lefroy disappointed her. A very brief non-mention of him in one of her letters three years after their acquaintance ceased shows that she had cared for him but there is nothing to suggest a grand love. (I’m pretty sure ‘non-mention’ isn’t passable as a word but I think it describes Austen's allusional style of letter writing better than, well, allusion. Caveat: allusional is also not a word kids.) In his old age Lefroy told his nephew that he’d had ‘a boyish love’ for ‘the writer Jane Austen’ but I can’t help but wonder that if she had not become famous by the time this remark was made, would he have even remembered the short flirtation of their long distant youth? I call it shabby indeed to build these few scratchings of a month long flirtation into a love affair and declare that it was a talented writer’s greatest influence. Austen’s influences were clearly drawn from the world around her, for her books are full of lives, the way of people and the way of the world, not just courtships. Those lives are diverse too and not often romantic: glimpses into the never ending workload of servants, the grubby port dwelling Prices, Harriet Smith and Eliza Williams of dubious and undesirable birth, Eliza Barton in a spunging-house¹, Mrs Smith in poverty and crippled, Dick Musgrove, a troublesome half-wit son, the grasping, offensive, stupid John Thorpe and a long list of gamblers, seducers and idiots. Her works feature sailors and soldiers at war, allusions to political unrest, ambition of every nature and moral ambiguity. If love isn’t the sole feature of her books, how can it reasonably be called her sole influence? If an ado really had to be made about her love life, which I cannot consider as necessary or desirable, Austen was disappointed likewise by a Mr Holder of Ashe House as well as Tom Lefroy. Austen had evidentially expected a proposal from Holder, had even written of her disappointment to her sister, of their being ten minutes alone together in the same room and yet her not receiving any declaration. Austen appears to have had at least three serious suitors, two of whom she received definite proposals from, and denied, but it has been, more realistically in my opinion, speculated that if Austen ever had strong feelings for anyone, it was for the third, and a very shadowy personage, the Nameless Clergyman. In the summer of 1801 the Austens holidayed in Devonshire and formed a friendship with two brothers; a physician and a clergyman. Austen and the clergyman fell in love, apparently to the happiness and approval of all parties. The brothers intended to visit the Austens soon after the holiday was over, and the two factions even planned out a trip together for the following year. To quote from John Halperin²: It was fully expected by the Austen family that at the first opportunity the clergyman would offer marri[...]

Impropriety by the Seaside. Part Two.


Although there is indecorousness at Uppercross, foolishness at Kellynch and snobbishness in Bath, the improprieties practiced by all almost every character in the first half of Persuasion are capped by the dangerous and interesting events of the novel taking place by the seaside, at Lyme. The careless intimacy between Captain Wentworth and Louisa Musgrove proceeds rapidly at Uppercross and in her child-like admiration of him ‘he had had to jump her from the stiles’ in all of their country walks. In fervor for the navy and by proxy, the sea, the Miss Musgroves fuel a trip for the Uppercross young people to Lyme, where Wentworth’s closest friends, the Harvilles and Captain Benwick, are quartered. On a walk on the Cobb there are some perilous stairs to be got down and as ‘the sensation was delightful to her’; Louisa is jumped down them by Captain Wentworth. Undoubtedly the sensation of being held in the captain’s hands was more delightful than jumping from heights. Headstrong and infatuated, Louisa insists on jumping again, from higher and with too little notice, and she falls unconscious and concussed onto the pavement. Louisa’s headstrong actions leave her barely conscious for weeks at Lyme and though she recovers, her near fatal fall alters her temperament, her former boisterousness gone and a quiet, nervous, sober girl emerges from the drama.

On the same trip to Lyme Anne Elliot twice briefly encounters a gentleman the party later learns to be Mr Elliot, the heir to Kellynch Hall and Anne’s cousin. His failure to properly attend the Elliot family, his marriage to a low woman and his disparaging remarks about Sir Walter and Miss Elizabeth Elliot had caused a breech between the baronet and his heir. Though reconciled for a short period with the Elliots in Bath , his past life proves to be a true representation of his character, as it transpires that he has seduced Mrs Clay to get her away from Sir Walter, in order that he may prevent the baronet from marrying her and producing a son, thereby disinheriting him. With Mrs Smith’s enlightening story, the reader learns that he contributed to the financial ruin of her deceased husband and refuses, though Smith thought him a great friend, to act on her behalf that she may lift herself out of her present poverty. He is linked also with another seaside place, as it was told in Lyme that he had been in Sidmouth previous to his introduction into the narrative.

To be continued

Impropriety by the Seaside. Part One.


Modern day readers of Jane Austen may well be baffled by the scandalous reputation of seaside resorts in Georgian Britain. The word 'resorts' refers not to those mega complex hotel monstrosities that can currently be seen ruining the landscape of exotic locales the world over but simply a destination that is an attraction in itself, such as the seaside, and which also provides a society of sorts for visitors. 'Watering place' was likewise a term applied to seaside places and also encompassed Bath.There was without doubt a loosening of propriety within the society of watering places. These towns were public places, while the social activities of London houses and country estates were much more controlled and private in the main. In the country a person was in their private home, in London they were working the season, elsewhere they were on holiday. Acquaintances were made that would never have been made in the stricter regimes of London or the country, familiarities might be allowed and liberties may be taken that similarly could never have been anywhere else. If this seems surprising within the context of Georgian society, well, just think what people will do on holiday these days that they would never do at home. It's the same mindset.Bath was a respectable, wealthy town famous for it's drinking water and healing baths and popular amongst the holidaying classes who were in need of restoration, or did not like or could not afford London for a couple of months. It's being cheaper and cheerier made Bath an ideal spot for fortune-hunters such as the Thorpe siblings of Northanger Abbey and the scene of Eliza Williams' acquaintance with Willoughby in Sense & Sensibility, who could live at less expense and worm their way more easily into hearts of genteel folk in the more relaxed society of Bath, than they could in London.The chief attraction of Bath was the benefits the place had to one's health, and to ne're-do-wells no doubt the chief attraction was the bored wives, daughters and nieces of gouty gentleman more occupied with their own ailments than the pleasures of their womenfolk. But at the seaside there were even greater health benefits to be had in sea bathing and (oh god) drinking sea water, and most likely ladies who were even more unoccupied, since there were considerably fewer town things by the seaside to take up their time and interest. And there was sea bathing, and all the sensations and delight such an activity could stir up compared to the otherwise sedate experiences of a Georgian lady. It's no accident that so many improprieties occur at seaside resorts in Austen's novels.RamsgateTom Bertram's gallivanting in Mansfield Park sees him idling in as many as three seaside places (as well as London and country houses) within the short time frame of the narrative. He races horses at Brighton, he makes the acquaintance of the fashionable and rather weak-headed Yates at Weymouth, who later persuades Julia Bertram to elope with him, and in telling a story of a visit to Ramsgate he gives a description of the kind of impropriety tolerated in watering places. He forms a new acquaintance on the pier, an inappropriate beginning in itself. Mrs Sneyd is 'surrounded by men' and the two Miss Sneyds are left to the company of other strange young men. Moreover, it transpires that the youngest Miss Sneyd, though 'perfectly easy in her manners, and as ready to talk as to listen' and not demurely attired, is not even 'out' in society. An unseemly piece of mismanagement, as 'Miss Augusta should have a been with her governess'. In other words, she was but a child being made available for the pleasures of men, not unlike Ly[...]

Georgian Item of the Week



Young Woman Ironing

circa 1800
Louis-Léopold Boilly
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This painting has got me thinking and I believe I'll research a post on servants in Georgian Britain and Austen's novels. Check in for that over the next few days. Due to a faulty (and scarily sparky) power cord, my computer and I had parted ways for a while but we're back to posting more often from now on.

Austen and the Picturesque. Part Four Concluded.


For the beginning of Part Four please see below.

“I like a fine prospect, but not on picturesque principles. I do not like crooked, twisted, blasted trees. I admire them much more if they are tall, straight, and flourishing. I do not like ruined, tattered cottages. I am not fond of nettles or thistles, or heath blossoms. I have more pleasure in a snug farm-house than a watch-tower,- and a troop of tidy, happy villages please me better than the finest banditti in the world.”

- Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility

Marianne’s appreciation of the Picturesque isn’t merely an exercise in fashionable sentimentality. Although her demonstrativeness is revealed to be affected, Marianne’s feelings are genuine; her real sensibilities as well as her sense prevail in the novel. While Austen uses the Picturesque to highlight Marianne’s emotionalism, she also uses it to remind us of her real taste and intelligence underneath her often self-absorbed and foolish actions. Edward and Marianne hold intelligent discussions about landscape and the narrative hints at ‘old disputes’ between them, indicating a history of thoughtful debate. The jargons of the Picturesque are not merely hollow words when used by Marianne:

"I am convinced," said Edward, "that you really feel all the delight in a fine prospect which you profess to feel…”

Marianne’s actions of course and even her language at times borders on the absurd, and Austen associates the Picturesque with the absolutely absurd Rushworth in Mansfield Park. In a rage for ‘improvements’ Rushworth bores the Mansfield company with talk of instigating some at Sotherton. "Your best friend upon such an occasion," Maria Bertram advices succinctly "would be Mr. Repton, I imagine", an especially absurd plan, for Repton designed landscapes very well, but never physically built them, not being a gardener himself. Though he charged ‘five guineas a day’, his designs were often not followed since a gardener would have to then be brought in to implement them.

Throughout her works Austen never criticizes the Picturesque per se but she does criticize the fashion for it. Like the subject of any fashion, there is nothing wrong with the Picturesque, what Austen ridicules with it, as she does so often, is the blind following of a trend without reason, honesty, learning or a consultation of real personal taste.


For Parts 1 - 3 please see the Austen and the Picturesque tag.

Austen and The Picturesque. Part Four.


In Sense and Sensibility Marianne Dashwood’s ‘passion for dead leaves’ is more than a romantic appreciation of Picturesque nature, it’s a declaration of the ideals that she has adopted. Decaying beauty is a phrase that could be used to describe Marianne herself for a good portion of the narrative, as well indicate her tastes. Her character is sound; she is ‘sensible and clever…generous, amiable, interesting’ but her demonstrative emotions and her actions are fueled by Romanticism, and often conjure affectations that, she acknowledges in the final chapters, go against even her character. Her sensibilities are fed by ill judged but popular sentimental notions and propped up by her will to embody the Romanticism of the poetry she reads and the decaying beauty of the Picturesque she so admires. These sensibilities, likewise the Picturesque, invoke drama.

When Elinor pokes fun at Marianne’s first conversation with Willoughby she jokes that ‘another meeting will suffice to explain his sentiments on picturesque beauty, and second marriages, and then you can have nothing farther to ask.’ Marianne’s notions on landscapes and love characteristically have the Romantic in common. Edward Ferrars also teases her good naturedly on the topic. During his first stay at Barton Cottage he admires the surrounding countryside and ridicules the language of the Picturesque as a superficial concern:

"You must not enquire too far, Marianne; remember I have no knowledge in the picturesque, and I shall offend you by my ignorance and want of taste if we come to particulars. I shall call hills steep, which ought to be bold; surfaces strange and uncouth, which ought to be irregular and rugged; and distant objects out of sight, which ought only to be indistinct through the soft medium of a hazy atmosphere.”

Marianne laments that ‘every body pretends to feel and tries to describe with the taste and elegance of him who first defined what picturesque beauty was’, ‘him’ being William Gilpin in his series of essays on the Picturesque, a devotion to whom Edward also notes when he declares that is she were rich, Marianne ‘would have every book that tells her how to admire an old twisted tree’ and indeed, on the sister’s journey to London, ‘any object of picturesque beauty within their view drew from her an exclamation of delight’

Part Four is to be continued

Books on Tape Techie Time: Podcasts


There are a small handful of Jane Austen related podcasts presently available through iTunes. Among the Austen podcasts however I can only honestly recommend one, but I do so warmly and whole heartedly.

The majority of the present Austen podcast selection is rather mediocre but in the Higher Education category of podcasts there is a unabridged recording of Pride and Prejudice read by Catherine Byers. There is no listing of who the book is read by in iTunes, so I didn't know the name of the narrator until I downloaded and started to listed to it. I wasn't familiar with Catherine Byers so I looked her up and it turns out that she is an actress well known for narration, has recorded more than 500 works over 26 years and was honored with an award for her work in narration. Her reading of Pride and Prejudice is superb. She has an excellent voice and is an expressive and talented narrator. This reading is better than many purchasable titles and it's available free of charge in the podcast section of your iTunes online store. If you do not have iTunes already, you may download it free of charge on the Apple website.

Georgian Item of the Week


Georgian Item of the Week Presents:The Big Three of the Napoleonic Wars: Well, Nel and Nap. Part Three.Napoleon I of France15 August 1769 - 5 May 1821 Napoleon Bonaparte First Consul1802Antoine-Jean GrosMusée Nationale de la Légion d’Honneur, Paris Napoleon Bonaparte was born to a minor Corsican noble family – the Buonapartes - in 1769, not long after the island became the property of France. Following a childhood spent in military academies, Napoleon distinguished himself in the army of revolutionary France, particularly during the campaigns of 1796. Napoleon was a master politician and despite British military defeat in Egypt in 1798, by February 1800 he was established as the First Consul of France. In 1804 he crowned himself Emperor of France and set out to conquer Europe. Despite devastating naval defeat again by the British at Trafalgar (1805), for the next eight years Napoleon dominated Europe, fighting and defeating a range of alliances involving combinations of Austria, Britain, Russia and Prussia. Napoleon’s power began to mislead him however and in 1812 he made a tragically ill judged attempt to invade Russia. The majority of a 400 000 man army was lost in Russia, Britain had fought its way to France through Spain and in 1814 Paris surrendered to allied forces and Napoleon was sent into exile on the Island of Elba. Napoleon had one final adventure in 1815. In less than one hundred days he had secretly returned to France, attracted vast support and reclaimed his Imperial throne, had re-emerged on the European scene with his army, and was finally defeated by the Duke of Wellington and General Blücher at Waterloo, and was then exiled even further from Europe. Napoleon Bonaparte spent the six final years of his life on the rocky island of St Helena, and despite modern theories citing a poisoning death, Napoleon died of stomach cancer in 1821. He was a masterful soldier, a highly skilled tactician and a superb administrator, and one of the most celebrated, and debated, personages in history.[...]

A New Sensibility


More than anything else about the PBS Jane Austen season in 2008, I'm most keen to see Andrew Davies' new adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Davies of course is the man behind the best Emma and Pride and Prejudice adaptations (1995), as well as Middlemarch (1994), Take a Girl Like You (2000) and Bleak House (2003), among many other excellent productions. I'm also rather excited about his adaptation of A Room with a View, set to be released in the UK some time this year. The Merchant-Ivory production is one of my favourite films, probably in the top five, but I'm always interested in new and potentially good work.There's been some silly talk in the media about Sense 08 rolling in a replacement for the (apparently) much talked of 'wet shirt scene' from Davies' Pride and Prej. Sigh. That's all I can do when read such dribble. My closest friend and I loved that production when we were teenagers. We watched it many times over, we probably knew the entire script by heart. My mum bought me 'the making of' book for my birthday. I was into it. But never once, not even as a sixteen year old, did I rewind and replay said scene or even think about it after it had passed. I never met anyone who gushed over it. I suspect it was obsessed over more in the media and in other books than in real life. There is of course a book in which it, and poor Colin Firth, actually play a part in the storyline, but so much do I dislike the BJ books that I can't even bring myself to type the words.But I digress. Scenes involving dueling, seduction, rainy wood chopping and (apparently manly) horse riding are being speculated as there to up the sex appeal. I just find this kind of lurid speculation so boring. Davies knows what he's doing, he's at the top of his game, and gossip about shirtless men just takes away from the amount of research and work that goes into these productions, for the sake of a few sexy minutes.Not that wood chopping and dueling aren't sexy. They totally are.I'm very, very glad that the duel between Willoughby and Brandon, and the seduction of Eliza Williams feature, as she especially is such a crucial part of the book's storyline. Plus I just love a cinematic fencing duel. I can't help it. The Princess Bride and Dangerous Liaisons. I'm all about it.*"The novel is as much about sex and money as social conventions. This drama is more overtly sexual than most previous Austen adaptations seen on screen and gets to grips with the dark underbelly of the book", states Davies in a BBC press release, and I think that says it all, really. I'm rather excited about this production and I believe it may well turn out to be a classic of BBC adaptations. The cast includes David Morrisey as Brandon, Dominic Cooper as Willoughby and newcomers Hattie Morahan as Elinor and Charity Wakefield as Marianne.*It's just occurred to me at this later stage that this is most likely a duel with pistols. How daft that I just assumed it would be fencing.[...]

Austen and The Picturesque. Part Three.


The Picturesque and the Gothic are intertwined in Northanger Abbey, and the limits to which these notions are stretched is a motif sustained throughout the narrative. Austen offers up the Picturesque as a testament to the real feelings of the younger Tilneys, as opposed to the false ones voiced by General and Captain Tilney and the Thorpes. The direction the story takes is dependent on the actions of the Northanger sibling sets: the Morlands, the Thorpes and the Tilneys, the motives and actions of brothers and sisters are central to the narrative. The different ways in which the Picturesque is associated with the Thorpes and the Tilneys emphasizes the great differences in character and sincerity in the opposing siblings. Similar to how their response to Gothic novels delineates a marked difference between Eleanor Tilney and Isabella Thorpe; Eleanor reads a novel like The Mysteries of Udolpho as enjoyable fiction while Isabella seeks to emulate it’s flighty melodrama, so too does the different ways in which Henry Tilney and John Thorpe are linked with the Picturesque present the disparity in intelligence and naturalness between the two men. This disparity is keenly demonstrated in the two separate excursions Catharine Moreland is taken on by the different siblings, on the inappropriate jaunt in the carriages with the Thorpes, and the more decorous, and more fulfilling, country walk with the Tilneys. John Thorpe, when trying to persuade her to give up this prearranged walk with the Tilneys in favour of the carriage outing with himself, her brother James and Isabella, plays on Catharine’s gothic leanings by proposing to lead the party as far away as Blaise Castle: "Blaize Castle!" cried Catherine. "What is that'?""The finest place in England--worth going fiftymiles at any time to see.""What, is it really a castle, an old castle?""The oldest in the kingdom.""But is it like what one reads of?""Exactly--the very same.""But now really--are there towers and long galleries?""By dozens." As Austen well knew, Blaise Castle is a fake, not unlike John Thorpe. Modern built in 1766 on the Blaise estate, the 'castle' is not a real castle but a miniature one, and is in fact a garden feature typical of some of the artificial excesses in landscaping practiced under the banner of the Picturesque. Still standing today on the top of Blaise Hill on the estate in Bristol, the castle was only thirty years old when Northanger Abbey was written. The narrative isn’t only making Thorpe appear rather foolish to 18th century audiences, it associates him with the more ridiculous aspects of Picturesque fashion. Ironically, this sort of garden feature was actually known as a ‘folly’. In opposition to John Thorpe’s folly, the truly warm, good hearted dispositions of Henry and Eleanor Tilney make a calm inclination towards the Picturesque very natural, essential even, to differentiate them from every other protagonist, and make them the emotional and imaginative equals, or superiors, of Catharine. There are none but the Tilneys who share Catharine’s romanticism. The Moreland parents and James, while excellent, are people of ‘useful plain sense’, ‘good temper’ and ‘very respectable’. Mr Allen, like the Morelands, is sensible, wise and unimaginative. Kindly Mrs Allen only has the latter in common with her husband but her good nature is an unemotional, soothing balm. But the Tilney’s romantic awareness is en par with Catharine's,[...]

Nice one, Becs.


My heartfelt thanks go out to my bonny lass Rebecca Steuart for assisting me in gaining access to an indispensable collection of journal and review articles.

Here's to you Sunflower.

Georgian Item of the Week


Georgian Item of the Week Presents:The Big Three of The Napoleonic Wars: Well, Nel and Nap. Part Two. Vice-Admiral Horatio, Lord Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson29 September 1758 - 21st October 1805 Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson1800Lemuel Francis AbbotNational Maritime Museum, UK If Wellington is regarded as Britain’s greatest soldier, another Georgian must be considered their greatest sailor. Horatio Nelson won three of the most decisive naval battles in British history at the Nile (1798), Copenhagen (1801) and of course, Trafalgar, where in 1805 Nelson took his famous and essential victory over the navy of Napoleon Bonaparte. Born in Norfolk, his father was the Rev. Edmund Nelson and his uncle the Admiral Suckling*. Nelson likewise joined the navy at the age of 12 and by his own merit as well as his Uncle’s interest, was promoted through the ranks to Captain by the age of 21. In 1798, Nelson was responsible for a great victory in a battle with the French navy. The Battle of the Nile (also known as the Battle of Abukir Bay) took place on August 1, 1798 and, as a result, Napoleon's ambition to take the war to the British in India came to an end. In April 1801 came the Battle of Copenhagen. At that time, the Baltic was a vital source of trade and maritime supplies for Britain. So when in early 1801, under the influence of Russia, the Baltic and Northern states formed themselves into an 'Armed Neutrality of the North' and placed an embargo on British ships, the Government was to take action. Negotiations with the Danes broke down, a key member of the Armed Neutrality, and battle ensued. Nelson’s disregard for too timid higher orders gained the victory. 1805 brought the most famous naval battle in England’s history: Trafalgar. Having abandoned his plans for an invasion of Britain, Napoleon had now started a new campaign against Austria which had to be thwarted. Napoleon's navy, under the leadership of Villeneuve, was an excellent one and the combined forces of the French and the Spanish a formidable opponent. Britian's advantae was The Nelson Touch. Nelson and the British were thunderingly victorious. But the British navy, and the nation, suffered a great loss. Vice-Admiral Nelson was struck by a French sniper’s bullet during the action. Though he lingered long enough to learn that he had won the battle, he died on board his vessel The HMS Victory hours after being wounded, on the 21st of October 1805.*This name is so memorable that I've often wondered if Austen, who must have known the life story of the nation's living legend, borrowed Suckling for the bragging, affected Mrs Elton's so amusingly named relatives in Emma [...]