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Archive for April, 2011

As it’s Easter and we are celebrating two hundred years of Sense and Sensibility this year, I’d like to offer a signed copy of Willoughby’s Return. Please leave a comment below telling me who your favourite character is from Sense and Sensibility. The offer will be open until May 1st, 2011, and is open to everyone!

Jane Austen wrote the following letter to her sister Cassandra when she was staying with her brother in London. She was there to edit Sense and Sensibility, and she tells her sister how she is getting on with the process of corrections. It seems the weather was hot – we’re also enjoying a spell of fine weather here in England.

Happy Easter! I hope you all have a lovely holiday!

Sloane St: Thursday (April 25).

MY DEAREST CASSANDRA,
I can return the compliment by thanking you for the unexpected pleasure of your letter yesterday, and as I like unexpected pleasure, it made me very happy; and, indeed, you need not apologise for your letter in any respect, for it is all very fine, but not too fine, I hope, to be written again, or something like it.
I think Edward will not suffer much longer from heat; by the look of things this morning I suspect the weather is rising into the balsamic north-east. It has been hot here, as you may suppose, since it was so hot with you, but I have not suffered from it at all, nor felt it in such a degree as to make me imagine it would be anything in the country. Everybody has talked of the heat, but I set it all down to London.
I give you joy of our new nephew, and hope if he ever comes to be hanged it will not be till we are too old to care about it. It is a great comfort to have it so safely and speedily over. The Miss Curlings must be hard worked in writing so many letters, but the novelty of it may recommend it to them; mine was from Miss Eliza, and she says that my brother may arrive to-day.
No, indeed, I am never too busy to think of S and S. I can no more forget it than a mother can forget her sucking child; and I am much obliged to you for your inquiries. I have had two sheets to correct, but the last only brings us to Willoughby’s first appearance. Mrs. K. regrets in the most flattering manner that she must wait till May, but I have scarcely a hope of its being out in June. Henry does not neglect it; he has hurried the printer, and says he will see him again to-day. It will not stand still during his absence, it will be sent to Eliza.
The Incomes remain as they were, but I will get them altered if I can. I am very much gratified by Mrs. K’s interest in it; and whatever may be the event of it as to my credit with her, sincerely wish her curiosity could be satisfied sooner than is now probable. I think she will like my Elinor, but cannot build on anything else.

Our party went off extremely well. There were many solicitudes, alarms, and vexations, beforehand, of course, but at last everything was quite right. The rooms were dressed up with flowers, &c., and looked very pretty. A glass for the mantlepiece was lent by the man who is making their own. Mr. Egerton and Mr. Walter came at half-past five, and the festivities began with a pair of very fine soals.
Yes, Mr. Walter – for he postponed his leaving London on purpose – which did not give much pleasure at the time, any more than the circumstance from which it rose – his calling on Sunday and being asked by Henry to take the family dinner on that day, which he did; but it is all smoothed over now, and she likes him very well.
At half-past seven arrived the musicians in two hackney coaches, and by eight the lordly company began to appear. Among the earliest were George and Mary Cooke, and I spent the greater part of the evening very pleasantly with them. The drawing-room being soon hotter than we liked, we placed ourselves in the connecting passage, which was comparatively cool, and gave us all the advantage of the music at a pleasant distance, as well as that of the first view of every new comer.
I was quite surrounded by acquaintances, especially gentlemen; and what with Mr. Hampson, Mr. Seymour, Mr. W. Knatchbull, Mr. Guillemarde, Mr. Cure, a Captain Simpson, brother to the Captain Simpson, besides Mr. Walter and Mr. Egerton, in addition to the Cookes, and Miss Beckford, and Miss Middleton, I had quite as much upon my hands as I could do.
Poor Miss B. has been suffering again from her old complaint, and looks thinner than ever. She certainly goes to Cheltenham the beginning of June. We were all delight and cordiality of course. Miss M. seems very happy, but has not beauty enough to figure in London.
Including everybody we were sixty-six – which was considerably more than Eliza had expected, and quite enough to fill the back drawing-room and leave a few to be scattered about in the other and in the passage.
The music was extremely good. It opened (tell Fanny) with “Poike de Parp pirs praise pof Prapela”; and of the other glees I remember, “In peace love tunes,” “Rosabelle,” “The Red Cross Knight,” and “Poor Insect.” Between the songs were lessons on the harp, or harp and pianoforte together; and the harp-player was Wiepart, whose name seems famous, though new to me. There was one female singer, a short Miss Davis, all in blue, bringing up for the public line, whose voice was said to be very fine indeed; and all the performers gave great satisfaction by doing what they were paid for, and giving themselves no airs. No amateur could be persuaded to do anything.
The house was not clear till after twelve. If you wish to hear more of it, you must put your questions, but I seem rather to have exhausted than spared the subject.
This said Captain Simpson told us, on the authority of some other Captain just arrived from Halifax, that Charles was bringing the “Cleopatra” home, and that she was probably by this time in the Channel; but, as Captain S. was certainly in liquor, we must not quite depend on it. It must give one a sort of expectation, however, and will prevent my writing to him any more. I would rather he should not reach England till I am at home, and the Steventon party gone.
My mother and Martha both write with great satisfaction of Anna’s behaviour. She is quite an Anna with variations, but she cannot have reached her last, for that is always the most flourishing and showy; she is at about her third or fourth, which are generally simple and pretty.
Your lilacs are in leaf, ours are in bloom. The horse-chestnuts are quite out, and the elms almost. I had a pleasant walk in Kensington Gardens on Sunday with Henry, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Tilson; everything was fresh and beautiful.
We did go to the play after all on Saturday. We went to the Lyceum, and saw the “Hypocrite,” an old play taken from Molière’s “Tartuffe,” and were well entertained. Dowton and Mathews were the good actors; Mrs. Edwin was the heroine, and her performance is just what it used to be. I have no chance of seeing Mrs. Siddons; shedid act on Monday, but, as Henry was told by the boxkeeper that he did not think she would, the plans, and all thought of it, were given up. I should particularly have liked seeing her in “Constance,” and could swear at her with little effort for disappointing me.
Henry has been to the Water-Colour Exhibition, which opened on Monday, and is to meet us there again some morning. If Eliza cannot go (and she has a cold at present) Miss Beaty will be invited to be my companion. Henry leaves town on Sunday afternoon, but he means to write soon himself to Edward, and will tell his own plans.
The tea is this moment setting out.
Do not have your coloured muslin unless you really want it, because I am afraid I could not send it to the coach without giving trouble here.
Eliza caught her cold on Sunday in our way to the D’Entraigues. The horses actually gibbed on this side of Hyde Park Gate: a load of fresh gravel made it a formidable hill to them, and they refused the collar; I believe there was a sore shoulder to irritate. Eliza was frightened and we got out, and were detained in the evening air several minutes. The cold is in her chest, but she takes care of herself, and I hope it may not last long.
This engagement prevented Mr. Walter’s staying late – he had his coffee and went away. Eliza enjoyed her evening very much, and means to cultivate the acquaintance; and I see nothing to dislike in them but their taking quantities of snuff. Monsieur, the old Count, is a very fine-looking man, with quiet manners, good enough for an Englishman, and, I believe, is a man of great information and taste. He has some fine paintings, which delighted Henry as much as the son’s music gratified Eliza; and among them a miniature of Philip V. of Spain, Louis XIV.’s grandson, which exactly suited my capacity. Count Julien’s performance is very wonderful.
We met only Mrs. Latouche and Miss East, and we are just now engaged to spend next Sunday evening at Mrs. L.’s, and to meet the D’Entraigues, but M. le Comte must do without Henry. If he would but speak English, I would take to him.
Have you ever mentioned the leaving off tea to Mrs. K.? Eliza has just spoken of it again. The benefit she has found from it in sleeping has been very great.
I shall write soon to Catherine to fix my day, which will be Thursday. We have no engagement but for Sunday. Eliza’s cold makes quiet advisable. Her party is mentioned in this morning’s paper. I am sorry to hear of poor Fanny’s state. From that quarter, I suppose, is to be the alloy of her happiness. I will have no more to say. Yours affectionately,

J. A.

Give my love particularly to my goddaughter.
Miss Austen, Edward Austen’s, Esq.
Godmersham Park, Faversham.


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In April, 200 years ago in 1811 on this day, Jane Austen was writing to her sister Cassandra. Jane was staying in Sloane Street with her brother Henry and his wife Eliza, and had gone to London so that she might correct the proofs for Sense and Sensibility. Her mood is happy – she must have been so excited about her forthcoming book, and she was obviously enjoying herself at all the parties, and was clearly interested in all the people she met. I love the fact that she was treating the sisters to new fabric for dresses, and looking forward to a party that Henry and Eliza were hosting. Here is the letter in full.

Sloane St: Thursday (April 18).

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,
I have so many little matters to tell you of, that I cannot wait any longer before I begin to put them down. I spent Tuesday in Bentinck Street. The Cookes called here and took me back, and it was quite a Cooke day, for the Miss Rolles paid a visit while I was there, and Sam Arnold dropped in to tea.
The badness of the weather disconcerted an excellent plan of mine –  that of calling on Miss Beckford again; but from the middle of the day it rained incessantly. Mary and I, after disposing of her father and mother, went to the Liverpool Museum and the British Gallery, and I had some amusement at each, though my preference for men and women always inclines me to attend more to the company than the sight.
Mrs. Cooke regrets very much that she did not see you when you called; it was owing to a blunder among the servants, for she did not know of our visit till we were gone. She seems tolerably well, but the nervous part of her complaint, I fear, increases, and makes her more and more unwilling to part with Mary.
I have proposed to the latter that she should go to Chawton with me, on the supposition of my travelling the Guilford road, and she, I do believe, would be glad to do it, but perhaps it may be impossible; unless a brother can be at home at that time, it certainly must. George comes to them to-day.
I did not see Theo. till late on Tuesday; he was gone to Ilford, but he came back in time to show his usual nothing-meaning, harmless, heartless civility. Henry, who had been confined the whole day to the bank, took me in his way home, and, after putting life and wit into the party for a quarter of an hour, put himself and his sister into a hackney coach.
I bless my stars that I have done with Tuesday. But, alas! Wednesday was likewise a day of great doings, for Manon and I took our walk to Grafton House, and I have a good deal to say on that subject.

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 my way back who should I meet but Mr. Moore, just come from Beckenham. I believe he would have passed me if I had not made him stop, but we were delighted to meet. I soon found, however, that he had nothing new to tell me, and then I let him go.
Miss Burton has made me a very pretty little bonnet, and now nothing can satisfy me but I must have a straw hat, of the riding-hat shape, like Mrs. Tilson’s; and a young woman in this neighbourhood is actually making me one. I am really very shocking, but it will not be dear at a Guinea. Our pelisses are 17s. each; she charges only 8s. for the making, but the buttons seem expensive — I might have said, for the fact is plain enough.
We drank tea again yesterday with the Tilsons, and met the Smiths. I find all these little parties very pleasant. I like Mrs. S.; Miss Beaty is good-humour itself, and does not seem much besides. We spend to-morrow evening with them, and are to meet the Coln. and Mrs. Cantelo Smith you have been used to hear of, and, if she is in good humour, are likely to have excellent singing.
To-night I might have been at the play; Henry had kindly planned our going together to the Lyceum, but I have a cold which I should not like to make worse before Saturday, so I stay within all this day.
Eliza is walking out by herself. She has plenty of business on her hands just now, for the day of the party is settled, and drawing near. Above 80 people are invited for next Tuesday evening, and there is to be some very good music – five professionals, three of them glee singers, besides amateurs. Fanny will listen to this. One of the hirelings is a Capital on the harp, from which I expect great pleasure. The foundation of the party was a dinner to Henry Egerton and Henry Walter, but the latter leaves town the day before. I am sorry, as I wished her prejudice to be done away, but should have been more sorry if there had been no invitation.
I am a wretch, to be so occupied with all these things as to seem to have no thoughts to give to people and circumstances which really supply a far more lasting interest – the society in which you are; but I do think of you all, I assure you, and want to know all about everybody, and especially about your visit to the W. Friars; “mais le moyen” not to be occupied by one’s own concerns?
Saturday. – Frank is superseded in the “Caledonia.” Henry brought us this news yesterday from Mr. Daysh, and he heard at the same time that Charles may be in England in the course of a month. Sir Edward Pollen succeeds Lord Gambier in his command, and some captain of his succeeds Frank; and I believe the order is already gone out. Henry means to inquire farther to-day. He wrote to Mary on the occasion. This is something to think of. Henry is convinced that he will have the offer of something else, but does not think it will be at all incumbent on him to accept it; and then follows, what will he do? and where will he live?
I hope to hear from you to-day. How are you as to health, strength, looks, &c.? I had a very comfortable account from Chawton yesterday.
If the weather permits, Eliza and I walk into London this morning. She is in want of chimney lights for Tuesday, and I of an ounce of darning cotton. She has resolved not to venture to the play to-night. The D’Entraigues and Comte Julien cannot come to the party, which was at first a grief, but she has since supplied herself so well with performers that it is of no consequence; their not coming has produced our going to them to-morrow evening, which I like the idea of. It will be amusing to see the ways of a French circle.
I wrote to Mrs. Hill a few days ago, and have received a most kind and satisfactory answer. Any time the first week in May exactly suits her, and therefore I consider my going as tolerably fixed. I shall leave Sloane Street on the 1st or 2nd, and be ready for James on the 9th, and, if his plan alters, I can take care of myself. I have explained my views here, and everything is smooth and pleasant; and Eliza talks kindly of conveying me to Streatham.
We met the Tilsons yesterday evening, but the singing Smiths sent an excuse, which put our Mrs. Smith out of humour.
We are come back, after a good dose of walking and coaching, and I have the pleasure of your letter. I wish I had James’s verses, but they were left at Chawton. When I return thither, if Mrs. K. will give me leave, I will send them to her.
Our first object to-day was Henrietta St., to consult with Henry in consequence of a very unlucky change of the play for this very night – “Hamlet” instead of “King John” – and we are to go on Monday to “Macbeth” instead; but it is a disappointment to us both.
Love to all.

Yours affectionately,
JANE.

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As I’m sure you know by now the very lovely Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose  has a book coming out in October! Jane Austen Made Me Do It is being published by Ballantine books, and is available for pre-order! In case you’ve forgotten, though I’m sure I’ve mentioned it once or twice, I have contributed a short story to this amazing anthology. Just look at the fantastic authors featured on the cover – I’m thrilled to think that my piece inspired by Persuasion is to be amongst them, and I can’t wait to read all the stories.
I am so excitied about this book, not least because there’s a chance I may even see it on a bookshelf here in the UK, which will be a rare treat for me!


Adam Spunberg who runs the wonderful Jane Austen Twitter Project with Lynn Shepherd contacted me to tell me about an exciting interview he had with Deborah Moggach who wrote the screenplay for the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice. It’s a lovely interview which also features our very own Sharon Lathan who was so inspired by the film. Sharon runs the group Austen Authors along with Abigail Reynolds – if you haven’t come across this blog before do have a look. There are always quizzes and competitions to win our books, as well as articles of every kind to tempt you!

Laurel Ann also told me about a new production of Northanger Abbey here in the UK, which I would love to see – Traffic of the Stage presents Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, adapted by John Cooper at the Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre, in Highgate, north London, 19 April to 14 May 2011.
Directed by Harry Meacher, designed by Bryan Hands , cast includes Ashley Charles (James Morland), Terry Diab (Mrs Allen), Victoria Emslie (Catherine Morland), Sasha Jacques (Mary Andrews/Alice), Oliver King (Henry Tilney), Anna Passey(Isabella Thorpe), Tom Reah (General Tilney), Fergus Rees(John Thorpe), Toby Spearpoint (Captain Tilney), Saskia Willis (Eleanor Tilney).



I’m pleased as punch with this gorgeous review from Meredith at The Librarian Next Door 
Thank you so much, Meredith, you’ve made my week!
Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy are now happily married and settled into life at Pemberley. As Lizzie sets out to learn about being the mistress of such a grand home, she tries to help Georgiana overcome her shyness and attempts to reconcile her husband with his disagreeable aunt, Lady Catherine. But it’s the gossip and innuendo from local families that threatens to destroy Lizzie’s hard-won happiness. Hints of hidden secrets swirl, leaving Lizzie unsettled. Meanwhile, Darcy is adamant that Georgiana marry quickly – and not for love, but for money. Suddenly, Lizzie isn’t sure she knows her husband at all.


Picking up where Pride and Prejudice left off, Jane Odiwe’s Mr. Darcy’s Secret explores the possibilities of Lizzie and Darcy’s life after the wedding. While there is certainly no dearth of Pride and Prejudice“sequels,” Odiwe’s book stands out for being both original and highly Austen-ish. Reading this book, you can almost imagine that Austen herself is continuing her story. While familiar faces continue to grow and evolve, they still resemble the people we know and love from the original. Add in an intriguing and intricate plot with new characters, secrets to discover and mysteries to unravel and you have a thoroughly enjoyable story.
As with Pride and Prejudice, everyone’s favorite literary couple are front and center. Odiwe’s Lizzie and Darcy are very much like Austen’s – Lizzie is still spirited, quick-witted and intelligent, while Darcy can still be arrogant and conceited. But they also learn from each other, changing over time. Lizzie is determined to fit into her husband’s world and prove the naysayers wrong, so she begins to bite her tongue and passively accept the things she cannot change. Darcy, meanwhile, realizes the benefit of tempering his pride and admitting his mistakes.
Any Austen fan wants a happily-ever-after for Lizzie and Darcy, of course, and while Odiwe does give it to them, she makes them work for it. The Lizzie and Darcy of Mr. Darcy’s Secret don’t have a perfect marriage. It’s flawed, but it’s also completely realistic and watching them stand up and fight for one another is my favorite part of this book.
A handful of subplots include Georgiana discovering her own strength and a certain talent for rebellion, a still-bitter Caroline Bingley falling for an artist and hilariously attempting to impress him, and near-perfect representations of Austen’s most outrageous characters, including Mrs. Bennett and Lady Catherine. The eponymous secret of the title keeps you guessing right up to the end of the novel and, to her credit, Odiwe doesn’t necessarily resolve the mystery neatly. There’s still just a hint of ambiguity, leaving the smallest seed of doubt in readers’ minds.
Jane Odiwe’s Mr. Darcy’s Secret is a beautifully written and well-told story that echoes Austen’s original and then takes off in a new and creative direction. It’s a great addition to the ever-growing world of Pride and Prejudice inspired literature – a must-read for any Austen fan or even anyone who has ever wondered what happened after Lizzie and Darcy said, “I do.”
This last nugget of news isn’t really Jane related, but I wanted to say thank you to everyone who was so kind when our poor cat Marley died recently. We have a new kitten who is really helping to cheer us all up. Little Vinny is so cute – he’s melted all our hearts, though I have to say when he’s running up the curtains during one of his ‘mad’ half hours before he collapses and falls asleep, cute is not the word that immediately springs to mind. More like naughty scamp!

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