HAPPY 241st BIRTHDAY, JANE AUSTEN
Here we are, almost entering the year 2017, two hundred years on July 18 since Jane Austen died at the terribly premature age of 41. Hard to believe the woman who wrote such celebrated literature lived only a smidgen above four decades. Her legacy will live forever.
I am fortunate to attend two Jane Austen Society of North America Birthday events each year, one in Chicago and one in Milwaukee. Both are joyous occasions in beautiful venues with excellent programs, fine food, and rooms full of delightful companion Austen-lovers. Since JA’s birthday falls in mid-December, we always celebrate amidst seasonal decorations adding to the festivities.
The Great Chicago Region held our Birthday Tea on Saturday, December 3, at The Fortnightly, just north of the Magnificent Mile.
This year, Dr. Diane Capitani presented a talk on Emma and Motherhood, exploring the many aspects of maternal activity — or lack of it — in the last novel Austen published in her lifetime. As always, Dr. Capitani drew us deep into her subject with provocative interpretations inspiring lively discussion. Four leading characters in the novel are “motherless” – Emma, Frank Churchill, Jane Fairfax, and Harriet Smith. Other characters give us a variety of potential (or actual) maternal behavior: Emma herself in regard to her father, Miss Taylor/Mrs. Weston, and the deliciously offensive Mrs. Elton, for example. The resulting conversation was only stopped by the temptations of The Fortnightly’s sumptuous tea.
On Saturday, December 10, the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee was the scene of JASNA-WI’s Birthday luncheon. The bright sunlight outdoors almost stole the sparkle from their huge dining room tree.
Following the delicious luncheon, we shared birthday cake, a timely reminder of the real source of our celebration.
After quite a few years as JASNA-WI Recording Secretary, I was delighted to turn over my records to incoming RS, Sara Bowen, Thanks Sara! And many thanks also to Judy Beine for presenting me with these charming reminders of Wellington’s great victory in 1815’s Battle of Waterloo: antique statues of Napoleon and his Josephine.
A large crowd enjoyed fellowship and the best of all events: a delightful presentation on Jane Austen’s life and times.