Anne is alone in a crowded room

So many parallels in these lyrics to this scene! (Persuasion C7)

TS: “Now I’m standing alone in a crowded room…”

JA: “…the room seemed full, full of persons and voices”

TS: “…and we’re not speaking”

JA “she heard his voice; he talked to Mary, said all that was right, said something to the Miss Musgroves”

TS: “And I’m dying to know, is it killing you…”

JA “Now, how were his sentiments to be read? Was this like wishing to avoid her?”

TS: “…like it’s killing me?”

JA: “…a thousand feelings rushed on Anne, of which this was the most consoling, that it would soon be over.”

Taylor Swift’s favourite colour: purple

Jane Austen’s: reportedly turquoise

Happy that I love both these colours but green was the closest I could get here.

You can discuss Austen with me by booking a time

Audio from The Story of Us (TV) by Taylor Swift

Video from Persuasion 1995

Categorised as Austen

Miss Darcy was only 15

When we’re fifteen we’re more trusting, we believe in romance.

Miss Darcy was only fifteen when Mr Wickham seduced (groomed) her and persuaded her to elope. Marriages did happen that young but they not frequently. Miss Darcy “retained a strong impression of (Wickham’s) kindness to her as a child,” he was someone she thought she knew. We also need to bear in mind that she’d lost her father 4-5 years earlier, we don’t know how young she was when her mother died. Wickham’s pursuit of Lydia later, singles him out as the kind of man who manipulates young women who don’t know he isn’t to be trusted.

I know I used to be wild
That’s ’cause I used to be young”

Miley Cyrus, Used To Be Young

We are wild when we’re young, but we grow. Lydia, often referred to as wild, may be “saved” by Darcy but doesn’t appear to learn from her experience. She is only sixteen at the time of her elopement and in the last chapter of Pride and Prejudice Austen indicates she never grows up.

If you’d like to discuss Austen privately with me you can book a “read with me” session

And then there’s Lydia…

Lydia was only fifteen (2 months into 16) when Mr Wickham seduced (groomed) her and persuaded her to elope. Lizzy, if not Austen herself, puts the blame at Lydia’s door.

…their elopement had been brought on by the strength of her love rather than by his… his flight was rendered necessary by distress of circumstances… he was not the young man to resist an opportunity of having a companion.”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, C51

These thoughts are Lizzy’s, we are never told the actual circumstances of their elopement. It’s possible Wickham could be revenging himself on Lizzy and/or Darcy by his actions.

I think it’s significant that in the 1995 adaptation Lizzy specifically points out to Wickham that Lydia is only 15, the same age that Miss Darcy was when she suffered a similar fate. She remains that age in the 2005 version, Mrs Bennet says she’s 15, rather than 16 as in the novel.

Categorised as Austen

10 Years

Today marks 10 years since the first meeting of what would later become the Jane Austen Society of Aotearoa New Zealand. We met at The Wellesley, a historic hotel in Wellington, for high tea to discuss Sense and Sensibility. My mother was there and one of my sisters, someone I knew from high school, an academic who still attends today and two local members of the Australian Society (plus many more). I was the youngest person in the room and continued to be for some time.

In my piece “Austen Nerds Unite” in Cocktails with Miss Austen I discuss the impact Austen has had on my life and how my divorce (11 years ago now) lead to me starting the Society.

Originally we were under the umbrella of the Australia Society, supported by their president, the lovely Susannah Fullerton, I attended their conference in Sydney. The following year we emerged as our own Society.

We had our own personality, distinct from other Societies across the globe. For me, it was important to build a community and make Austen accessible rather than academic or elitist. In 2018 I presented a talk in London about the Society and Austen’s connections to New Zealand. I recall standing in front of a room full of people in a gorgeous old church wondering what a girl from New Zealand with green hair thought she was doing talking to these people alongside academics. In 2019 I gave a similar talk in Hawai’i which started a continuing partnership with their Society. My goal was to speak about Austen each year in a different country and meet other Austenites, but Covid happened (New Zealand went into lockdown on the day I was meant to fly to Melbourne to speak) and I haven’t yet ventured back out.

Covid has changed and expanded the landscape. Branches of JASNA, libraries, universities and other institutions started holding virtual talks and meetings. I could finally connect with people from the comfort of my own home (which as an introvert is very appealing). I still attend meetings with JASNA Hawai’i and Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho, people I’ve never met in person know me!

In 2019 I launched The Amateur Austenite podcast, just like the Society, I had no idea what I was doing and adjusted as I learnt. My voice no longer makes me cringe when I’m editing and I plan whole seasons ahead of time. I started a Ko-Fi to raise funds to produce the podcast and support the Society, as everything has come from my pocket.

Something hadn’t felt quite right for a while so in 2022 we rebranded as The Jane Austen Society of Aotearoa New Zealand, to include our countries te reo name. I found an artist to create a logo of Jane Austen with the head of a Huia, an extinct, easily recognisable, native bird. The female has a long distinctive beak you can see in the logo. This year marks 100 years since the last potential sighting of a Huia. The birds were known for their highly valued black tail feathers with white ends.

I wanted us to have more of an identity and found a perfect quote from Austen for our motto: “The pleasures of friendship, of unreserved conversation, of similarity of taste and opinions.” This is from a letter Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra on 20 June 1808 (the quote finishes “will make good amends for orange wine”).

I don’t know what the Society will look like in the future. The friends I mentioned in my piece for Cocktails are now gone, new friends replaced them and have since moved on too. But the great thing is there are always more passionate Austenites out there. I’m no longer the youngest person in the room and have (mostly) got over my imposter syndrome that I’m not an academic or in any official way qualified to be running this thing.

In another ten years the world will be a different place, I’ll be 52 and different too. But Austen will always be there, she’s outlived her works and I’ve made plans so this Society can outlive me too.

Categorised as Austen

Taking Charge of Your Own Narrative

Ok technically inspired by Austen – Jane gets the Fanny Price type character allocated to her and she’s not having it, so she takes charge of her own narrative.

Austenland is an adapted screenplay (no controversary unlike Barbie) from the book of the same name by Shannon Hale. Where the movie mocks Austenites, in the novel Jane isn’t even one of their number; her Aunt sends her on holiday. The book is infinitely better (and there’s a sequel) though the movie does have some redeeming features – just look at that cast!

In the book Jane is pushed into her adventure my her Aunt, in the movie she sends herself, but her decision to take control is due to the way she is treated as the “poor” character. So it’s the other characters that make her do it.

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a “Read With Me” session

Categorised as Austen

Captain Wentworth caused Louisa’s accident…?

Controversial opinion but stay with me.

..yours is the character of decision and firmness… It is the worst evil of too yielding and indecisive a character, that no influence over it can be depended on… Let those who would be happy be firm… My first wish for all whom I am interested in, is that they should be firm. If Louisa Musgrove would be beautiful and happy in her November of life, she will cherish all her present powers of mind.”

Jane Austen, Persuasion C10

Captain Wentworth is still angry with Anne, so much so that he teaches Louisa to be “obstinate,” with disastrous results. He thinks Anne was too persuadable in ending their engagement but when he describes his ideal woman (“a strong mind, with sweetness of manner”) she is “not out of his thoughts” yet he is unaware that he is describing her.

The reader can trace a direct line from the conversation between Captain Wentworth and Louise in the Hedgerow, his jumping her down stiles to his jumping her down the stairs at Lyme. The visit itself comes about because Louisa “armed with the idea of merit in maintaining her own way” wears down her parents. She’s a young woman, excited at the dashing Captain’s attention, his unthinking words and actions encouraged her to her accident.

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a Read With Me session

Categorised as Austen

Book Review: What Would Jane Austen Do?

Review of the novel by By Linda Corbett

Of course I was going to pick up this book, it’s a phrase very close to my heart. (Have I mentioned my whole “Jane Austen as Life Coach” thing?) Despite the few things I point out that could have been better it was an excellent read and hard to stop thinking about till I finished it. A charming Austen / cosy /chick lit read.

Maddy has the coolest job ever, but like most in Romancelandia not necessarily one you could actually make a living from, she’s an agony aunt in the persona of Jane Austen. After a firing she never investigates (hello employment laws?) she takes an unexpected opportunity to move to the country when she inherits her long-lost-black-sheep-second-cousin’s house. As all small places in books have, quirky characters abound. There’s a Mr Darcy author character, he and his dog end up “lodging” with Maddy.

There’s a romance but all sex is off page, there’s a Wickham character but he doesn’t pack much punch, there’s a mystery but it doesn’t get fully resolved. Why her cousin was ostracised is never explained and his redemption wasn’t much of one either. This could have been explored further. It would have been lovely for her to work out why her cousin chose her to inherit, why he chose never to contact the family (which could have been explained if his reasons for leaving had). Honestly, I assumed he was gay and either he excommunicated himself knowing his parents would disapprove, or they kicked him out.

It’s unfortunate that the cover and even the blurb don’t entirely match the inside of the book, though not an unheard of occurrence in publishing, still disappointing. Equally disappointing is the main character apparently being a journalist but not understanding basic journalistic principles.

Also there were bodies found during a building project? Who cares if they’re ancient! Tell us everything!!

Lady Susan is a nightmare, dressed like a daydream

There is exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person pre-determined to dislike, acknowledge one’s superiority.”

Jane Austen, Lady Susan

Lady Susan is a character we love to hate but you can’t fault her logic. There is pleasure in making those who dislike us admire, respect or at least acknowledge you’re better than them at something. True, not many of us do it quite so intentionally or maliciously as she does.

I have seen this dangerous creature… She is really excessively pretty… I have seldom seen so lovely a woman as Lady Susan. She is delicately fair, with fine grey eyes and dark eyelashes; and from her appearance one would not suppose her more than five and twenty, though she must in fact be ten years older. I was certainly not disposed to admire her, though always hearing she was beautiful; but I cannot help feeling that she possesses an uncommon union of symmetry, brilliancy, and grace. Her address to me was so gentle, frank, and even affectionate, that, if I had not known how much she has always disliked me… and that we had never met before, I should have imagined her an attached friend.

Jane Austen, Lady Susan, Letter 6

Lady Susan runs on the philosophy of keep your friends close and your enemies closer, so long as they’re of use to you. The Vernon’s can currently give her a home so they make that list.

Pippa pointed out that it sounds like Mrs Vernon is discovering her same sex attraction. It’s surprising Amme didn’t also mention it when we discussed Letter 6 especially as she pointed out Catherine’s attraction to Isabella. (Extended versions of Pippa and Amme’s Lady Susan episodes are available on Ko-Fi.) It’s a good point, Mrs Vernon gives a lengthy and detailed description – I even cut a few bits.

Underneath her beauty and charm (daydream) is a callous, manipulative, revengeful centre (nightmare). She’s probably studied her Shakespeare (actually she would make a great Lady Macbeth).

Look Like Th’ Innocent Flower, But Be The Serpent Under ‘T”

Shakespeare, Macbeth Act 1, Scene 5

Blank Space is a tongue in cheek response to the media’s portrayal of Taylor Swift as an unstable man eater. Many of the lyrics could be about Lady Susan; she views love as a game, everyone’s heard rumours about her, she’s excellent at appearing to be someone’s ideal and is well aware she’ll leave the men behind her scarred.

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a Read With Me session

And then there’s Miss Crawford….

Note how often Miss Crawford appears in shades of red in this adaptation. I think it’s only when she turns up thinking Tom is dying that she’s wearing a different colour – black, appropriately.

Categorised as Austen

Austenism: Novels are good

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid”

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, C 14

Austenism: Life Advice From Jane Austen

This might be more of an observation than advice per se, but we can extrapolate some useful advice from it.

To be fair some people don’t possess the ability to create images in their mind so reading isn’t as enjoyable for them, but that’s the important point. Reading. Should. Be Fun.

Austen would probably laugh how her books are seen as Classic Literature and some consider them High Brow. She wasn’t writing for the elite or the academics. Her first audience was her family and famously an elderly hard on her luck neighbour, Miss Benn, who had no idea the author of Pride and Prejudice was reading her the novel.

Austen may be trying to say several things here:

  1. Don’t gatekeep
  2. Don’t yuck other people’s yum
  3. Associate with people who share similar values

1. Don’t Gatekeep

Fandoms are well known for trying to keep all but the purists out. Austen is literally for everyone btw, she’s well out of copyright. It might be difficult to hear someone say they love Austen when they’ve only seen the movies, let them. Austen is not only for people who can quote pieces of her novels or discuss intimate aspects of characters as if they’re real people (both of which I can do). If you don’t allow anyone in, how else will new people find something that brings you so much joy?

2. Don’t Yuck Other People’s Yum

Let’s be fair this is exactly what John Thorpe is doing. He thinks he’s superior to Catherine and must “neg” her as a flirting tactic. Catherine likes gothic novels, good for her! In a couple of chapters she’ll admit this with shame to Henry who accepts it. If she’d gone around believing what John Thorpe said (which we never should) she would have been miserable and hiding her delight. Allow people to like what they like, it’s not hurting you.

3. Associate With People Who Share Similar Values

If books are important to you, hang out with others who feel the same…just not those judgy ones who think everything has to be “literature” and turn their nose up at some good smut. Unless, of course, you’re one of them, in which case – find your people! (I’m not one of them)

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a Read With Me session

Emma never leaves well enough alone

Emma’s advice to Harriet may not be wrong, however, it doesn’t take into account the power differentials i.e. that Harriet worships her. Nor does it account for the fact that Emma has other motives, in the form of Mr Elton who she thinks is a more appropriate match for Harriet.

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me you can book a read with me session

Audio and Video from Emma 2009

Audio from Me by Taylor Swift

Categorised as Austen

Mr Darcy had a speech, but ended up speechless

(as did Lizzy, briefly)

Video from BBC 1995 Pride and Prejudice
Audio from Champagne Problems by Taylor Swift

Mr Darcy had a whole speech when he proposed to Lizzy (it’s related in the book rather than word for word, I think so the reader doesn’t hate him), she was initially speechless and her response made him speechless. How could a woman not like him? They were always chasing him, just look at Miss Bingley. Hadn’t he and Lizzy been flirting this whole time? Had he misinterpreted the whole thing?

Because of the manner of his proposal for a while love does “slip beyond (his) reaches.”

Problems, when compared to issues of poverty, natural disasters, and war, are not that big of a deal.”

Urban Dictionary, Champagne Problems

Champagne Problems is an appropriate title for Darcy too – he’s a rich guy who’s had things relatively easy (let’s ignore parents dying early and his sister being induced into an elopement….he doesn’t have to worry about his future like Lizzy, or deal with her embarrassing family, or be a female at any time on this planet).

If you’d like to discuss Austen with me one-on-one you can book a Read With Me session.

And Lady Catherine…

Categorised as Austen