The Spring Gala of the Wisconsin Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America was held on April 28 at the Wisconsin Club, historic home of Alexander Mitchell (1817-1887), a Scottish-born business leader in Milwaukee. More about the Mitchell Family below.
The program began with Sheryl Craig, a JASNA traveling scholar and editor of JASNA News. Dr. Craig presented her AGM talk on the economic background of Sense and Sensibility: “Wealth Has Much to Do With It..” Jane Austen was a keen observer of economic and social conditions in the year 1795 when she was writing the first draft of the novel, then known as Elinor and Marianne.
Dr. Craig illustrated her points by summarizing the character and attitude of the three “Johns” in Sense and Sensibility, who represented three common if differing positions among the English gentry of the period. The miserly Mr. John Dashwood leaves his step-mother and half-sisters nearly destitute as he tends to his so-called improvements of Norland Park, including the enclosure of common lands, thus depriving the poor and working class of their former rights. John Willoughby is a selfish, money-grubbing rake who ruins Eliza and breaks Marianne’s heart while he seeks a wealthy wife.
“The Sensible Regency Wedding” was the topic of Victoria Hinshaw. She spoke about the modest and quiet nature of most regency weddings, including those of Jane Austen’s niece as recounted by Caroline Austen and the quiet nuptials of Lord Byron and Annabella Millbanke as reported by John Cam Hobhouse.
Hinshaw also discussed courtship, the legalities of marriage, wedding customs, elopements, separation and divorce. She commented on Jane Austen’s attitude toward love and marriage as expressed in her life, her letters and her novels.
JASNA-WI members and guests enjoyed socializing before and after the presentations. There is never enough time to talk about Jane Austen.