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Posts Tagged ‘Emma’

IMG_4191Jane Austen mentions gardens many times in her novels-too many to mention all of them here, but I love this exchange between Mrs Elton and Mr Knightley in Emma who both have very different views about nature and simplicity.

We are to walk about your gardens, and gather the strawberries ourselves, and sit under trees; and whatever else you may like to provide, it is to be all out of doors; a table spread in the shade, you know. Every thing as natural and simple as possible. Is not that your idea?”

    “Not quite. My idea of the simple and the natural will be to have the table spread in the dining-room. The nature and the simplicity of gentlemen and ladies, with their servants and furniture, I think is best observed by meals within doors. When you are tired of eating strawberries in the garden, there shall be cold meat in the house.”

In Sense and Sensibility, gardens are used to help illustrate character traits, both of Elinor Dashwood’s half-brother and her sister Marianne. John Dashwood shows his disregard for the ancient trees that have been a part of the Norland estate, and Elinor knows their removal to satisfy her sister-in-law’s desire for a greenhouse will upset her sister Marianne’s sensibilities deeply.

 “Another year or two may do much towards it,” he gravely replied; “but however there is still a great deal to be done. There is not a stone laid of Fanny’s greenhouse, and nothing but the plan of the flower-garden marked out.”

   “Where is the greenhouse to be?”

   IMG_4425“Upon the knoll behind the house. The old walnut trees are all come down to make room for it. It will be a very fine object from many parts of the park, and the flower-garden will slope down just before it, and be exceedingly pretty. We have cleared away all the old thorns that grew in patches over the brow.”

 Elinor kept her concern and her censure to herself; and was very thankful that Marianne was not present, to share the provocation.

In Northanger Abbey General Tilney offers to escort Catherine round the gardens.

The number of acres contained in this garden was such as Catherine could not listen to without dismay, being more than double the extent of all Mr. Allen’s, as well her father’s, including church–yard and orchard. The walls seemed countless in number, endless in length; a village of hot–houses seemed to arise among them, and a whole parish to be at work within the enclosure. The general was flattered by her looks of surprise, which told him almost as plainly, as he soon forced her to tell him in words, that she had never seen any gardens at all equal to them before; and he then modestly owned that, “without any ambition of that sort himself — without any solicitude about it — he did believe them to be unrivalled in the kingdom. If he had a hobby–horse, it was that. He loved a garden. Though careless enough in most matters of eating, he loved good fruit — or if he did not, his friends and children did. There were great vexations, however, attending such a garden as his. The utmost care could not always secure the most valuable fruits. The pinery had yielded only one hundred in the last year.

IMG_4343Later on, when Catherine Morland is forced to come home early by General Tilney, the garden is a place of refuge for our heroine.

Catherine’s disposition was not naturally sedentary, nor had her habits been ever very industrious; but whatever might hitherto have been her defects of that sort, her mother could not but perceive them now to be greatly increased. She could neither sit still nor employ herself for ten minutes together, walking round the garden and orchard again and again, as if nothing but motion was voluntary; and it seemed as if she could even walk about the house rather than remain fixed for any time in the parlour. Her loss of spirits was a yet greater alteration. In her rambling and her idleness she might only be a caricature of herself; but in her silence and sadness she was the very reverse of all that she had been before.

From Pride and Prejudice we have the obsequious Mr Collins.

“The garden in which stands my humble abode, is separated only by a lane from Rosings Park, her ladyship’s residence.”

And I’ll give the last word to Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park.mansfieldpark

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I thought you’d like to see these treasures – a collection of lace, bonnet, gloves, glasses and ivory counters that belonged to Jane and the Austen family. They are on display in the museum at Lyme – donated by Mrs Diana Shervington. I was lucky enough to hear this fascinating lady speak at a conference in Lyme a few years ago. She brought along some other pieces from her collection – I particularly remember a strikingly beautiful red feather cockade that Jane wore in her bonnet and thinking that this was no accessory for a shy, retiring country spinster. Mrs Shervington was most generous with her time and gave a really entertaining talk on her illustrious ancestor – she is descended from the Knight family. Full of humour and with so many stories to tell I couldn’t help thinking that I had come face to face with Jane herself. She will be giving a talk at the museum in Lyme at 11 am on 30th June 2009 – for a full list of events in Lyme please click here
The glasses apparently belonged to Jane’s mother. The lace and gloves are exquisite and so very tiny – the Austen women must have had very delicate hands. The counters are the type used in card games as mentioned in Pride and Prejudice – ‘Lydia talked incessantly of lottery tickets, of the fish she had lost and the fish she had won’. The small sticks of ivory and bone are used in a game called spillikins where each player has to remove them one at a time by using a hook without disturbing the rest of the pile.

The alphabet letters reminded me of this passage from Emma by Jane Austen.

“Miss Woodhouse,” said Frank Churchill, after examining a table behind him, which he could reach as he sat, “have your nephews taken away their alphabets – their box of letters? It used to stand here. Where is it? This is a sort of dull-looking evening, that ought to be treated rather as winter than summer. We had great amusement with those letters one morning. I want to puzzle you again.”

Emma was pleased with the thought; and producing the box, the table was quickly scattered over with alphabets, which no one seemed so much disposed to employ as their two selves. They were rapidly forming words for each other, or for any body else who would be puzzled. The quietness of the game made it particularly eligible for Mr. Woodhouse, who had often been distressed by the more animated sort, which Mr. Weston had occasionally introduced, and who now sat happily occupied in lamenting, with tender melancholy, over the departure of the “poor little boys,” or in fondly pointing out, as he took up any stray letter near him, how beautifully Emma had written it.

Frank Churchill placed a word before Miss Fairfax. She gave a slight glance round the table, and applied herself to it. Frank was next to Emma, Jane opposite to them – and Mr. Knightley so placed as to see them all; and it was his object to see as much as he could, with as little apparent observation. The word was discovered, and with a faint smile pushed away. If meant to be immediately mixed with the others, and buried from sight, she should have looked on the table instead of looking just across, for it was not mixed; and Harriet, eager after every fresh word, and finding out none, directly took it up, and fell to work. She was sitting by Mr. Knightley, and turned to him for help. The word was blunder; and as Harriet exultingly proclaimed it, there was a blush on Jane’s cheek which gave it a meaning not otherwise ostensible. Mr. Knightley connected it with the dream; but how it could all be, was beyond his comprehension. How the delicacy, the discretion of his favourite could have been so lain asleep! He feared there must be some decided involvement. Disingenuousness and double-dealing seemed to meet him at every turn. These letters were but the vehicle for gallantry and trick. It was a child’s play, chosen to conceal a deeper game on Frank Churchill’s part.

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