Throwback: Year 1 #AustenInAugustRBR

As part of this tenth anniversary year, I’ll be sharing some favorite posts from previous Austen in August events. I hope you enjoy discovering or re-discovering these Austen explorations!

Please give a warm welcome to the next guest blogger for our Austen in August event: Meaghan from A Cineaste’s Collection!


Just about a year ago I had the incredible fortune to finally visit England. I’ve been an Anglophile my entire life (I am all for reunification). One of the stops on our trip was Bath, Somerset. I believe on my next trip to Bath, I will time it to coincide with the Jane Austen Festival Promenade. Over 500 people dress in Regency attire and walk the streets of Bath. This time, we had to settle for a lovely visit to the Jane Austen Centre on Queen’s Square.

The centre is housed in a Georgian townhouse near the centre of town, populated by friendly staff in period dress. I can’t help but admit I giggled a little at the portrait of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the entrance, welcoming us to the centre. A small gift shop occupies the front room that features Austen’s books, of course, but also lesser known and hard-to-find items like her juvenilia. Guests are then directed upstairs to a rooms with a number of chairs to watch a video while waiting for the next available docent.

The visit officially begins with a very informative talk about Austen’s life and her connection to Bath. Aside from a few highlights, much of what we were told was new information to me. Most surprising perhaps was how much Jane came to despise Bath. She set two of her novels (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion) there but the depiction of the spa town varied greatly. For wide-eyed Catherine Morland (and a much younger Austen), Bath is a glittering place of parties, society and romance. This, as we learned, was likely influenced by Jane’s visits to Bath to see her Aunt and Uncle Leigh-Perrot. They kept rooms in the Paragon and it seems Jane enjoyed her time there. Austen’s character Morland in Chapter Ten of Northanger Abbey expresses her delight in Bath:

“Oh! Yes. I shall never be in want of something to talk of again to Mrs. Allen, or anybody else. I really believe I shall always be talking of Bath, when I am at home again — I do like it so very much. If I could but have Papa and Mamma, and the rest of them here, I suppose I should be too happy! James’s coming (my eldest brother) is quite delightful — and especially as it turns out that the very family we are just got so intimate with are his intimate friends already. Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?”

However, Austen wrote this novel a couple of years before she was forced by strained circumstances to move there. In 1801, Jane’s father decided to retire as rector and move the family (his wife and two daughters) to the Somerset city.  She writes to her sister Cassandra shortly after arriving:

“The first veiw [sic] of Bath in fine weather does not answer my expectations; I think I see more distinctly thro’ Rain.–The Sun was got behind everything, and the appearance of the place from the top of Kingsdown, was all vapour, shadow, smoke & confusion.” –letter to Cassandra — May 5, 1801

Perhaps it was the cramped quarters and city living that did not agree with Jane. The social frivolity that had once amused her in small doses was now forced upon her ad nauseum.

“Another stupid party last night; perhaps if larger they might be less intolerable, but here there were only just enough to make one card table, with six people to look over, & talk nonsense to each other.” –letter to Cassandra — May 13, 1801

“We are to have a tiny party here tonight; I hate tiny parties–they force one into constant exertion.” –letter to Cassandra — May 21, 1801 

It is also likely that her misery was intensified that she wrote no novels during the five years the family lived in Bath.  By 1806, the Austens had moved numerous times, each place being smaller and less adequate than the last. When Reverend Austen died, the women were too poor to maintain their life in the city and moved in with Jane’s brother, Frank, in Hampshire. After these trying times, the city of Bath becomes a less friendly place in Austen’s work.

Despite her short and relatively unhappy years in Bath, the current residents and visitors could not be more proud of their literary heritage. After we were given the overview by a quite knowledgeable docent, we were set adrift in several rooms of museum dedicated to life in Bath during Austen’s time. While they did not have anything owned by her or her family, they did have numerous genuine items from the Regency period. The Jane Austen Centre does a great deal with very little. Their focus is on what life would have been like for someone like Jane Austen. The last room was dedicated to film adaptations of Jane’s works, including a letter from actor Emma Thompson, highlighted the continual popularity of her stories.  

The permanent exhibit is a bit claustrophobic at times, especially if there are a number of people in there as well. Then again, it helps us to understand Jane’s own annoyance at tight spaces. The staff is what makes the place a real treat. They are very well-versed and so enthusiastic. But then who of Jane’s fans aren’t. 

Suggested Links:


Thanks to Meaghan for stopping by and for sharing with us her trip to Bath! Please visit Meaghan at her blog, A Cineaste’s Collection.

Giveaway: Northanger Soapworks! #AustenInAugustRBR

Welcome back, Janeites!

As I mentioned at the top of yesterday’s guest post, today, Rachel of The Edge of the Precipice is here with a special giveaway for Austen in August: A $20 Gift Certificate from Northanger Soapworks!

Here’s what Rachel says of them: “I love ALL of her products, especially her candles and soaps. I’ve been using them for several years and they are such high quality!”

All you have to do to be considered is:

  • be a subscriber of Roof Beam Reader (email or WordPress); and
  • leave a comment on this post saying you’d love to win; and
  • make sure I have a way of contacting you if you win (email, social media handle, etc.).

Remember, as you’re reading through Austen in August and sharing any Austen-related content, please post links to your blogs or social media posts about the event in the comments on our master post. Use the #AustenInAugustRBR hashtag to share on social media.

Note: This giveaway is open until 11:59 PM pacific time on Wednesday, August 15th. One winner will be selected at random. Winner will be contacted for shipping information and will have 48-hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Giveaway host will ship item to the winner. Neither the giveaway host nor Roof Beam Reader are responsible for any items lost or damaged in the mail.

Austen(ish) Books #AustenInAugustRBR


Today, we welcome Austen fan Rachel from The Edge of the Precipice, who is here today to talk about books inspired by Austen and Austen’s worlds. Stop by again tomorrow for a special giveaway sponsored by Rachel!

While they will never come close to being as rewarding as Jane Austen’s actual books, I do quite enjoy reading retellings and continuations of her stories, as well as books about people who read her books.  Here are some of my favorites:

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay — Two friends visit a resort in England where they get to wear Regency clothes, adopt names from Austen’s books, and have some escapist fun.  Then one of the friends suffers a nervous breakdown, and the other slowly realizes she needs to stop pretending she doesn’t have non-work-related feelings for a co-worker.  It’s got rom-com vibes, but also friendship-based.

Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange — This retells Persuasion from Captain Wentworth’s point of view, told in journal entries.  It’s kind of fluffy, but I think it very accurately captures the characters from Austen’s original.  And seeing the story from a different angle is surprisingly rewarding.  The other books in this series are also fun, but this one is my favorite.

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge — This modern-day retelling of Sense and Sensibility focuses on two sisters who move to Austin, Texas, after a family crisis.  They open a tea shop, make new friends, and fall in love.  It’s told alternately from the Marianne and Colonel Brandon characters’ points of view, which was a really interesting take!

Pies and Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick — A mother-daughter book club reads Pride and Prejudice over the course of a year while one girl and her mother spend several months living in England.  The other girls in the club bake and sell pies to raise money to bring their friend home for spring break, and they all learn a lot about friendship, love, and judging people based on first impressions.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi — This modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice is set in a Brooklyn neighborhood.  A rich new family with two handsome sons moves in, setting all the teen girls aflutter.  All except Zuri Benitez, who can’t stand the Darcy boys or the way she assumes they want to change the neighborhood.  This is the only book on this list I can’t recommend to readers of all ages, as it does include some strong language and subjects that would be too mature for young teens.  

Sense and Sensibility from Manga Classics — This graphic novel has manga-style artwork, and the story is told in slightly updated language.  The art is beautiful, and I think the adapters really captured the essence of the original book and its characters.  There are two other Austen books available from Manga Classics too: Emma and Pride and Prejudice.  They’re both enjoyable, but I like this one best.

The Jane Austen mysteries by Stephanie Barron — A series of sixteen (so far) mysteries solved by Jane Austen herself!  The mysteries are fun, the regency setting is well-researched, and the series as a whole is delightful.  But best of all is the chance to imagine you’re hanging out with Jane Austen, who is portrayed as being intelligent, curious, witty, and clever.

-Rachel Kovaciny

https://theedgeoftheprecipice.blogspot.com/

Thanks so much, Rachel, for this fun panorama! Austenites, remember to stop by again tomorrow, August 10th, for another event giveaway, generously offered by Rachel. Don’t forget that our first giveaway ends on August 10th.

Giveaway: Lego Jane! #AustenInAugustRBR

Welcome back, Janeites!

As I mentioned at the top of yesterday’s guest post, today, our friend Chris from Book Cougars is here with a special giveaway for Austen in August: Jane Austen Lego!

All you have to do to be considered is:

  • be a subscriber of Roof Beam Reader (email or WordPress); and
  • leave a comment on this post saying you’d love to win; and
  • make sure I have a way of contacting you if you win (email, social media handle, etc.).

Remember, as you’re reading through Austen in August and sharing any Austen-related content, please post links to your blogs or social media posts about the event in the comments on our master post. Use the #AustenInAugustRBR hashtag to share on social media.

Note: This giveaway is open until 11:59 PM pacific time on Wednesday, August 10th. One winner will be selected at random. Winner will be contacted for shipping information and will have 48-hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Giveaway host will ship item to the winner. Neither the giveaway host nor Roof Beam Reader are responsible for any items lost or damaged in the mail.

Jane Austen Archives #AustenInAugustRBR

Today, we welcome the wonderful Chris from Book Cougars, who is here with an absolutely fascinating discussion of Jane Austen archives. Stop by again tomorrow for a special giveaway sponsored by Chris!

The other day it dawned on me that I had no idea if there is a publicly available digital archive of Jane Austen’s manuscripts or papers. I set off to find out via Google. 

A search for “Jane Austen archives” netted 8,160,000 results. The first half dozen results were hits on the Internet Archive which led to various texts by or about Austen. (Do check out archive.org if you’re not familiar — set a timer though, because you might find yourself going down a deep rabbit hole.)

The second to the last result on the first page was what I had in mind — “Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts”. This resource is the result of a three-year project funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council. Led by Professor Kathryn Sutherland of Oxford University, a team of researchers set out to digitize and make available online all of Jane Austen’s manuscripts. This is no small task when a collection is in one location, let alone scattered in various institutions on different continents.

Why aren’t Jane Austen’s manuscripts in one place?

After her death in 1817, Jane’s papers passed on to her sister Cassandra. As is widely known and wildly lamented, Cassandra burned the bulk of Jane’s letters in 1843. After Cassandra’s death in 1845, Jane’s manuscripts and papers were dispersed among family members. Then, in the 1920s, they were scattered among various institutions and private collections.

What’s the big deal about manuscripts?

Manuscripts are invaluable for what they can tell us about a writer’s creative process and growth. Writers don’t always save early drafts of their work in progress. It is fascinating to see what changes a writer makes on a draft: different word choices made, sentences sharpened, whole paragraphs or more cut, sentences added between lines or in the margins. It is amazing that some of Jane Austen’s manuscripts have survived for 200 years.

It can be a magical experience seeing a favorite writer’s handwriting for the first time. Looking at a handwritten manuscript helps you picture them sitting at their desk, pen in hand, forming letters, words, beloved lines, and whole pages of a well-loved story. And then they pause and gaze out the window or perhaps come back to the page the next day and cross out whole lines because they’ve thought of a better way to write what they want to stay, like this example of Persuasion.

You can see the actual manuscript on the right and the transcription with Jane’s edits on the left.

Prior to digital archives, it was time and cost prohibitive for scholars to visit these scattered manuscripts in person. By bringing the manuscripts together in this “virtual reunification,” opportunities for studying Austen’s creative process have become accessible to all for the first time. 

Unfortunately, digital files and the technology used to display them as intended are often much shorter lived than good old paper files. This is the case if you want to see a larger, zoomable image on “Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts.” The site was created using Adobe Flash Player for such display, a technology which is no longer supported. There is an editorial note on the home page explaining this and stating that they are looking for a new display option. However, don’t let that stop you from checking out the site. You can still see smaller images of the documents and read the transcription such as this example of a note Jane wrote.

If there are images you would like to see in full or zoom in on, there might be other options. The owner of each manuscript presented on “Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts” is listed. For example, the note “Profits of my Novels” is owned by the Morgan Library & Museum in NYC. You can access the digital copy on the Morgan’s site, zoom in, and also read details about the document in the accompanying notes. Below is a zoomed in screenshot of the note. Click the image to explore Jane’s note for yourself.

Professor Sutherland also edited a hardcover edition of the project which was published in 2018 by Oxford University Press: Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts

There might be more Jane Austen digital archives out there, but this one will keep me busy during this year’s Austen in August. Do you enjoy poking around on digital archives? If you do, whether they are Austen related or not, please share your favorite(s)! 

Thanks so much, Chris, for this interesting exploration! Austenites, remember to stop by again tomorrow, August 5th, for our first event giveaway, generously offered by Chris.