JASNA Birthday Tea in Chicago

The Greater Chicago Chapter of JASNA celebrated Jane Austen’s 236th  birthday with toasts to Jane and tea at the Fortnightly on Saturday, December 3, 2011.  The Club was festive with Christmas lights and set a perfect atmosphere for our afternoon.

The speaker for the program was Mona Scheuermann, a professor at Oakton Community College in Illinois, whose topic was “Jane Austen and Making Do.”  Of particular interest to her was the morality of the choice of plays chosen to be performed by the young people in the novel Mansfield Park. The choice of “Lover’s Vows,” an adaptation by Elizabeth Inchbald of a German play by von Koetzbue, defined each character and gave us a strong insight into their views.

Jane Austen, according to Scheuermann, did not believe that this play, with its theme of redemption after a  illicit affair, was a proper vehicle for the young, unmarried participants in the Mansfield Park dramatic effort.  Fanny Price, of course, refused to participate, and Edmund also balked, placing them in the forefront of good behavior, always a value to Jane Austen.

The Club’s lovely silver urns for our tea.  Our favorite winter beverage was accompanied by an assortment of savory sandwiches and sweets, as shown.

Above, the required watercress and cucumber sandwiches.  Once we are all served and reassembled, it was time for the annual birthday toast to our Jane. Leading us in extolling our favorite author was Karen Doornebos, author of the new novel, Definitely Not, Mr. Darcy. Look for more information on Karen here.

After we raised our champagne glasses to the memory of Austen, Karen posed with JASNA GCR regional coordinator Jeff Nigro.

Another debut author showing off her new work was Elizabeth Lenckos of the University of Chicago, who is a contributor to the volume entitled Wooing Mr. Wickham, a collection of stories inspired by Jane Austen’s heroes and villains, from the Jane Austen Short Story Award 2011 entries, sponsored by the Chawton House Library.  A total of 20 authors are included in a wide variety of formats and approaches.

Elizabeth’s story is based on the wartime experiences of her family in Berlin at the end of World War II.  It is a poignant story that shows just how deeply the love of Jane Austen can dwell within our hearts, even at the worst moments of existence.

Above, Elizabeth Lenckos speaks to the JASNA AGM in Ft. Worth, TX, in October 2011.

So now you have two books to add to your list for Santa this year.  And I have another Jane Austen Birthday Celebration to attend soon.  Hurrah!! Regardless of various kerfluffles about murder charges and newly-discovered portraits of somebody or other, our essential love of and admiration of Jane Austen remains indiminished.

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