Jane Austen's 235th Birthday in Wisconsin

JASNA-WI celebrated Jane Austen’s 235th Birthday on Saturday, December 11, 2010.  We had a wonderful time at the North Hills Country Club where we looked over the avenues of trees along the snowy golf course, which looked for all the world like a wintry English landscape garden, Capability Brown-style.

l-r Judy Beine, Victoria, Diana Burns, Liz Cooper,
Kathy O’Brien, Coral Bishop, Kim Wilson

We ate the lovely individual Beef Wellingtons and oh-so-English Trifle courtesy of our members Susan Flaherty and her father — many thanks for your continuing generosity. Right, members of the JASNA-WI executive committee.

Among the many wonderful things for sale at the luncheon were the offerings of Austen Authors,l-r, Jack Caldwell, Kathryn Nelson, Abigail Reynolds, Marilyn Brant, and C. Allyn Pierson, all of whom have written sequels and/or continuations of Austen novels. More about them here.

Here C. Allyn and Victoria pose in front of one of the many christmas trees — and over V’s shoulder is our pal, Pat Latkin of  Chicago, who brought along some of her collection of JA books for sale.  She always tempts us beyond belief with the rare finds she uncovers.
Also available was our wonderful Jane Austen Calendar, put together by Liz Philosophos Cooper and Kim Wilson, adorned for 2011 with Brock color illustrations, honoring the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Sense and Sensibility.
This shows a page, with almost every day filled in with an event in Jane austen’s life or an incident in her writings.  It is great fun for all the JA fans on your Christmas list.  To order, contact http://www.jasnawi.org/
Presenters of the annual Joan Philosophos Lecture were Victoria and Kim Wilson. We presented our colorful power point talk on “About Those Abbeys…in Fact, Fiction and Landscape” first heard at the recent AGM in Portland, OR. For details, see our blog post of Sunday, November 21, 2010, for a brief summary. Below, a rather blurry view…sorry, but I am certain JA won’t mind. We can all recognize her picture behind us!

The Costume Parade and Final Panel at the JASNA AGM

Victoria here with a passle of pictures from the Portland OR meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America on Halloween  weekend. Be sure to scroll down to the end to experience the piece de resistance of the final panel.

As befits the elegance of the members, a Bal Masque brought out the finest of our costumes. Below, the best of my shots (which probably isn’t saying much).

On Sunday morning, we reluctantly had to say good-bye, But we first enjoyed a lovely brunch and the final panel, “Dispute Without Mayhem,” which brought us a variety of views on Northanger Abbey.  But all the panelists agreed on one point: it is often under-rated!!  Panelists were Diana Birchall, William Phillips and Joan Ray, all with several (often hilarious) points to make. The moderator was Kimberly Brangwin, who managed to keep the  miscreants in order.

Finally, William favored us with one of his creations saying that his efforts in the poetry field were, at least in this case, limited to doggerel, which is often defined as verse for comic effect.  I think he succeeded admirably.

Doggerel Abbey, by William Phillips

Posthumously published—though the first written.

By this clever spoof, we’re bound to be smitten.

In early 20s, Jane started this journey—

Hell of a tribute to Radcliffe and Burney.

* * *

No heiress, no beauty, no genius, please meet

Catherine Morland, who at first, seems just – sweet!

Her mind might seem blank except for a head full

Of Gothic romance, which verges on dreadful.

As comp’ny to Bath by the Allens she’s sought,

And there in the web of the Thorpes is she caught.

Cath’s brother’s the goal of sly Isabella.

Miss M’s chased by John, a right unctuous fella.

She meets Henry Tilney – falls head over heels.

His father thinks Cathy is money on wheels.

Though unknown to Henry, her fortune’s no size.

Her letch for him simply puts stars in his eyes.

He’s smart and ‘in charge’, and though never grovels,

Shows sensitive side—knows muslin—reads novels.

Sis’ Eleanor—classiest gal in the book

Builds friendship with Cath’rine that really does cook.

Henry’s pizzazz makes John Thorpe just look shabby,

So C. splits and visits Northanger Abbey.

It’s all misadventure – strange chest and locked room.

C. thinks the Gen’ral’s a purveyor of doom!

Thorpe tells the Gen’ral, C’s fortune is lacking,

So in a great snit, he sends Cathy packing.

Henry learns of this, most vexed, does not tarry,

Follows to Wiltshire and asks her to marry.

Cath’rine’s parents say, “Wait! Permission’s a must!”

It looks like their hopes may be dashed in the dust.

Then E. marries Viscount—pleased Gen’ral lets go.

The kids live quite well on the dead mother’s dough.

* * *

The jury’s been mixed—some onions—some roses.

Quite a few critics have turned up their noses.

“Rather confused,” say some lit’rary sages,

But Cath’rine and we—learn lots in these pages!

© 2010 by William Phillips

Copy of William’s doggerel, courtesy of AustenBlog.

William Phillips in his Bal Masque disguise!!

Thus concludes, with a grin, my coverage of the JASNA AGM of 2011 in lovely Portland, OR.  Next year, Fort Worth, Texas.

JASNA in Portland OR, Part Three

 Victoria here, reporting on the final three break-out sessions I attended at the JASNA AGM. Mary Hafner-Laney’s (right) topic was “I was tempted by a pretty-colored muslin”: Jane Austen and the Art of Being Fashionable.  A capacity audience enjoyed her talk about fabrics and fashions of the regency era, the dresmakers and home-sewers, period patterns and costs.Mary had assembled collections of fabrics and excrpts from a fashion magazine, La Belle Assemblee, and showed her fashion doll, one of the techniques used by dressmakers to suggest styles to their customers. We had rather a mad dash at the conclusion of her talk for the excellent hand-outs she had assembled. Some of us will share ours at the December birthday luncheon.

 Next, I went to hear Sarah Parry, of the Chawton House Library, whose topic was “This roof was to be the roof of an abbey!”: What is Northanger Abbey?  Ms. Parry’s entertaining talk described a number of stately homes built out of abbeys, some of which Jane Austen certainly saw. The school she attended in Reading was housed in part of a former abbey.

Parry also told the amazing story of Fonthill Abbey, which was not an abbey at all, but a gothic fantasy structure erected by one of those eccentric characters in the period, William Beckford.  The tower was 276 feet high and eventually collapsed.

In the final round of break-outs, I attended the always-popular Susan Allen Ford’s talk on “Ingenious Torment: Reading Instructive Texts in Northanger Abbey.”  She told us of the many influences in Jane Austen’s novels of various books on proper behavior and advice to young ladies. Austen sometimes parodied the information in these instructive texts, as when Mrs. Morland, upon the abrupt rupture of Catherine’s romance with Henry, admonishes her simply to “live and learn.”

I can add some information to a previous post on Team Tilney.  I found a report on Austenblog from one of the participants, with lots more information, including the identity of Henry Tilney and the text of some of the presentation.

Click here to read and enjoy.

During the Evening’s Bal Masque, several interesting speakers gave talks that tempted many of us away from the dancing.  Elsie Holzworth of the Chicago chapter spoke about the connections between Jane Austen and Edgar Allen Poe.  Who knew?

But it is undeniable that their paths might have crossed while Edgar lived in London as a lad.  Jane Austen’s relatives lived near Poe’s home and the children might well have played together in the park. As so often with the details of Jane Austen’s life, we cannot be entirely sure, but the possibility is intriguing — little Edgar, perhaps listening to Jane reading a story to her nephews … or engaging in a lively game of baseball, as Catherine Morland was said to have done in Northanger Abbey.

My regret at this AGM (as at all the others) is that I couldn’t listen to more of the presentations. For each of the five break-out sessions, there were six or seven speakers, any of which I would have loved to hear.  Now, I have next year to look forward to, in Fort Worth, TX, October 13-16, 2011, celebrating 200 years of Sense and Sensibility .
For more informations, click here.

JASNA in Portland OR, Part Two

Victoria here with a short post on the break-out session I co-presented on Friday, October 29, 2010, at the JASNA AGM in Portland, OR. Kim Wilson, author of Tea with Jane Austen and In the Garden with Jane Austen, (right) and I spoke on “About Those Abbeys: In fact, literature and landscape.”
Starting with a brief history of monasticism in England and the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, we then focussed on what happend to the former abbey buildings and why they were considered so spooky — and/or picturesque.

When the abbeys and priories were closed, their land (about one-fourth of all of the nation’s arable land — the REAL reason Henry seized them) was sold and most of the buildings adapted for other uses or semi-destroyed. At right, Lacock Abbey, converted into a stately home and now run by the National Trust.

Ruined abbeys, castles and wild landscapes appealed to the writers of gothic fiction, so popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Mrs. Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho is the novel Jane Austen parodied in Northanger Abbey.  Terrible secrets are hidden in the ruins, dangerous forces threaten the innocent heroine, but all comes to a happy ending when she is rescued by a worthy hero.  Such stories were all the rage in JA’s day and many were set among the imagined clanking chains, ghostly moans and dark passages of ruined abbeys.

Stoneleigh Abbey, an estate inherited by Jane Austen’s relatives, was built on the property of an ancient abbey, and landscaped in the early 19th century by Humphrey Repton. Jane Austen visited here and mentions Repton’s schemes for landscapes in her novels.

 Stoneleigh is open to the public today and part of the tea shop is located in the old abbey undercroft.

We know that Jane Austen visited Netley Abbey in Hampshire while she was living in Southampton.  It was a popular venue for picnics and walks, as were so many of the abbey ruins spread over the entire British Isles. One of the most famous, below, is Tintern Abbey, maybe best known from the paintings of Turner.
More reports from Portland coming soon.

At the JASNA AGM, Portland OR, October 2010

It was an exhilarating experience to be with 600+ Jane Austen fans in Portland OR from October 27-31, 2010, for the yearly AGM on the topic of “Jane Austen and the Abbey: Mystery, Mayhem and Muslin.” At right, a collection of costumes on exhibit in the Milsom Street Emporium.  Frankly, I was much more interested in all the books on sale — but I tried to be judicious in my choices.
Team Tilney
 A pre-conference offering was the presentation:
 “Team Tilney Explains It All,” a light-hearted look at the (beloved) hero (center) of Northanger Abbey.

Our hero

 Team TilneyL l-r, Margaret Sullivan, Kelly Brown, Henry Tilney, Heather Laurence, Lynn Marie Macy.
Stephanie Barron
On Friday afternoon, the AGM officially opened with a talk by Stephanie Barron, author of the Jane Austen mystery series.  She analyzed Northanger Abbey as a mystery plot by which Catherine and Henry learn about each other and grow toward a lasting relationship, a very clever take on the novel.
Ms. Barron has a new book, Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron, which promises to be another fascinating read for those of us who love her imaginative style.  She said she combs through Austen’s letters for kernels of information she turns into her stories. 
In between sessions, our colleagues in the Wisconsin chapter of JASNA sold our wonderful 2011 calendars. Here, l-r, Area coordinator Liz Cooper, Susan Richard and Yolanda Jensen stand by to make the sales. If you are interested in all the dates in Jane’s life and in her novels, they are here!  For more information, click here and click again on Merchandise.
Farleigh Hungerford Castle
 Janine Barchas of the University of Texas, Austin, spoke on Bluebeard’s Castle. She suggested that Jane Austen had probably visited the ruins of Farley Hungerford Castle near Bath. A period guide to Bath and its environs was owned by the Austens and contained information the castle and its bloody history, which could well have been one of JA’s inspiratons for Catherine’s suspicions of mayhem at Northanger Abbey. 
The next break out I attended was –MINE! Kim Wilson, left, author of Tea with Jane Austen and Jane Austen in the Garden, and I presented “About Those Abbeys…in Fact, Fiction and Landscape.” I will post about our talk soon. This is a picture of Kim and me at a previous event. I was too busy with our power point to take photos.
The evening presentation was by popular speaker Jeff Nigro, Area Coordinator for the Greater Chicago Chapter of JASNA.  His topic was “Mystery Meets Muslin: Regency Gothic Dress in Art, Fashion and the Theatre.”  As always, Jeff (a Chicago Art Institute staffer) was knowledgable and charming.  I show him at right in his modeling debut from the Philadelphia AGM in 2009 (because I forgot my camera at his talk this year.)
The next morning, Saturday, we prepared for a busy day. Juliet McMaster gave the opening plenary talk on “A Surmise of Such Horror: Catherine Morland’s Imagination.”  As with Jeff’s talk, the audience was charmed, amused and illuminated by Juliet.

She is a leading Austen scholar, as well as an artist and playwright.  She and Jeff exhibit the best of what AGM’s provide: worthwhile talks that also entertain.  Just like Jane Austen’s novels.

Dr. McMaster pointed out how Henry Tilney relished Catherine’s freshness. The naive Catherine, who has lost herself in gothic novels, is susceptible to Henry’s teasing about the horrors awaiting her at Northanger Abbey. But after he catches her snooping and realizes she actually believes she will find evidence of terrible crimes committed there, he chastizes her. And with his gentle teaching, she grows to appreciate realy natural beauty and truth, gains confidence in her instincts and grows into the kind of woman he can not only admire and tease but love.  This is a very rough approximation of Dr. McMaster’s theses, but it will have to do, I’m afraid. Above and right is Dr. McMaster in the center, with admiring throngs.
I fear I have run out of space, so I will conclude now, and report on other AGM events in Parts Two, Three,  and Four upcoming.