Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron - A Review

Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: Being A Jane Austen MysteryJane and the Madness of Lord Byron by Stephannie Barron is a multi-layered Regency mystery, and the sleuth is none other than Jane Austen. Following the death of Henry Austen’s wife, Eliza, Comtesse de Feuillide, Jane and her brother make arrangements to visit the seaside town of Brighton. However, their plans for a quiet interlude fall by the wayside when a stop at a posting inn results in Jane and Henry rescuing a young lady, Catherine Twining, from a forced elopement with the scandal-ridden Lord Byron. When the girl’s body is discovered a few days later, a drowning victim, who is sewn into a canvas shroud and deposited in the bed of Lord Byron, the poet becomes the prime murder suspect.

This and That on a Thursday

Going After Cacciato
The Black Echo (Harry Bosch)I hope you will read my review of Michael Connelly's The Black Echo on the War Through the Generations blog hosted by Serena Agusto-Cox (Savvy Verse and Wit) and Anna Horner (Diary of an Eccentric). 2010 has been dedicated to books related to the Viet Nam War. I am also linking to an earlier review of Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Get Ready for "Talk Like Jane Austen Day" on October 30

Gentle Readers:

This Saturday, October 30, has been declared to be “Speak Like Jane Austen Day.” How can such a thing be accomplished? I fear that I shall fall short if I even attempt it. But one must do what one can so that one might be a part of a larger community. But I have no wish to engage in this venture alone, and as such, I encourage all of my readers to walk with me on this journey into the world of Jane Austen. And what shall I wear on this most special of days? I think my indigo frock made of the finest muslin will serve quite well. But there is a chill in the air, and so when I go into town to collect the post, I shall wear my periwinkle pelisse with matching bonnet and, of course, my pattens to preserve my shoes. Have I thought of everything? No, I have forgotten my parasol and my reticule where I keep my handkerchief and coins . I think I am now prepared to celebrate “Speak Like Jane Austen Day?” Shall we go?

For additional information, please visit The Talk Like Jane Austen Day site.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shocking News: Jane Austen Needed an Editor!

Jane Austen Could not Spell - What Does This Change?

From Jane Austen apparently could not spell. The exquisite writer was not only a poor speller, but also a poor grammarian at times. Austen had a lot of help from her editor.

A recent study by Oxford University English Professor Kathryn Sutherland revealed the truth about Austen’s spelling and grammar usage. Sutherland looked at 1,100 handwritten pages from Austen. Although Austen’s brother Henry claimed that "everything came finished from her pen," it appears that that claim was not the truth.

Sutherland read several unpublished manuscripts and found that the delicate precision of spelling and grammar is missing. In fact, there are blots and general messiness throughout. Also, Austen, like many, actually ended up breaking nearly all the rules for good English writing...

Continue reading the article at NEWS ( and...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Great Review for Anne Elliot from Diary of an Eccentric - I'm so excited!

Anne Elliot, A New Beginning: A Persuasion Re-imaginingKermit the Frog sings that "It isn't easy being green," and I can sympathize, because it's not easy being self-published either. For that reason, I am so pleased by the review from Anna Horner of Anne Elliot, A New Beginning at Diary of an Eccentric. Although sales of my Persuasion parody are modest, I am pleased by Anne Elliot's reception nonetheless. I wanted people to laugh, and apparently they are. I hope you will visit Anna's site and post a comment. But here is part of the review:

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s love of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and her sense of humor are evident in her latest novel, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning. Readers will need a sense of humor as well and not mind some liberties being taken with their beloved Austen characters to enjoy this parody, which had me in stitches throughout.

Anne Elliot’s family declares her a spinster on her 25th birthday, and since she has no plans to marry anyone unless he’s Frederick Wentworth — to whom she was engaged until a family friend, Lady Russell, persuaded her to break off the relationship... Possibly inspired by the ending of the 2007 movie version of Persuasion, Simonsen’s Anne Elliot takes a morning walk, decides to chase a rabbit, and ultimately becomes a long-distance runner. Anne also is more outspoken, no longer willing to let people decide for her, and not in need of any one to support her. When Frederick comes back after more than eight years, now a wealthy naval captain, he admires the changes in Anne and is drawn to her once again.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Little G, the Daughter of the Duchess of Devonshire

Castle Howard, Yorkshire
The snuff box sold at the Duke of Devonshire’s attic sale showed a picture of the most famous Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, and her eldest child, Georgiana Dorothy Cavendish. (See picture in post below.) The Duchess, who was married to the 5th Duke of Devonshire, was bound to him in a loveless marriage, one in which he showed no affection for her, probably because he was showering his love on the Duchess’s dearest friend, Lady Elizabeth Forster, his mistress of 25 years, and co-resident of Chatsworth. Lady Elizabeth became the Duke’s second Duchess upon the death of Georgiana in 1806.

Duchess and Little G by Reynolds
 But what happened to Georgiana's little girl? Little G married the 6th Earl of Carlisle and took up residence at their beautiful home in Yorkshire, Castle Howard, the setting for the television series, Brideshead Revisited. The earl served in the moderate Tory government of George Canning. However, Carlisle split with the Tories over electoral reform and later served as a member of the cabinet in the Whig administration of Lord Grey. Ironically, Lord Grey had had an affair with Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, and together they had had a child, Eliza Courtney Ellice. Lord Grey was married to Mary Ponsonby, a descendant of the 3rd Duke of Devonshire. Are we clear on this?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Duke of Devonshire Cleans Out His Attic

Snuff Box with
Georgiana and Little G

When Peregrine Cavendish, the present Duke of Devonshire, inherited Chatsworth, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Devonshire, five years ago, he discovered that the attic of the manor house was stuffed to the gills with centuries of accumulated bric-a-brac. Crates of china, glass and silver, lanterns, lacquered screens, paintings, rocking horses, train sets, globes, a pram, stuffed animals and birds were among the attic’s treasures. According to His Lordship, “It was scarcely possible to open doors, let alone to store anything else.” His response was to contact Harry Dalmeny, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s, and to conduct “the greatest attic sale ever held.”
Duke of Devonshire

Sotheby’s estimated that the three-day sale in early October of 20,000 items would raise £2.5m. The final total was closer to £6.5m. The 400 people in attendance competed with 1,000 more registered remote bidders. The highest price was £565,250, almost twice the top estimate, paid for a 1735 white marble fireplace designed by William Kent for Devonshire House, the family’s enormous London home that was demolished in the 1920s to make way for the Green Park tube station. The fireplace had been dismantled into 30 pieces and stored in a building once used to repair tractors.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October 13 - A Busy Day in History

Nero Fiddles While
Rome Burns
*54 – Nero ascends to the Roman throne – not a good thing for Rome or anyone else
Knight Templar

*409 – The Vandals cross the Pyrenees into Spain – not a good thing for civilization in general

*1307 – Hundreds of Knights Templar in France are arrested by agents of Philip the Fair. They were tortured until they confessed to heresy – not a good thing for the Templars. However, Philip the Fair enriched his coffers from the fabulous wealth of the Templars. “Fair” refers to the color of his hair not his treatment of others.

*1362 – The Chancellor of England opens Parliament with a speech in English for the first time. Prior to that, the address was made in French. In the same year a statute decreed that English was to be the official language of the courts, and English replaced French in the schools – good for the common folk who spoke only English.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Story of Old English - The Building Blocks of a Language

I love English. It has a richness and depth that is unmatched by any other language. German has a vocabulary of about 185,000 and French fewer than 100,000. Compare that to the 650,000 to 750,000 entries in an unabridged English dictionary. According to The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg, “Our everyday conversation is still founded on and funded by Old English… We can have intelligent conversations in Old English and only rarely do we need to swerve away from it. Almost all of the hundred most common words in our language, wherever it is spoken, come from Old English. There are three from Old Norse: “they,” “their” and “them,” and the first French derived word is “number” at seventy-six.” Here are the 100 most commonly used words:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Results of the Poll for Portrait of Charles William Bell

Joseph Beattie as
Henry Crawford
Now for the winner of my poll of the portrait of a dandy. (See post below.) It is Henry Crawford of Mansfield Park by a nose over Robert Ferrars and Frank Churchill, and in my opinion, that is just about right. After all, Henry Crawford destroyed the reputation of Maria Bertram when he ran off with a married woman. Please note that no one thought our heroes, Darcy, Wentworth, Knightley,  Henry Tilney, or Edward Ferrars (who only got one vote), looked like this pretty boy (see below). I imagine that Sir Walter Elliot, as a young man, could also have fit the bill. Thanks for voting.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Name the Dandy in the Lawrence Portrait - Take My Poll - Please

This is Thomas Lawrence's portrait of Charles William Bell , circa 1798. He is dressed to the nines in his luxurious jacket and elaborate neckcloth-- definitely a gentleman to the manor born. I love the cockscomb hairstyle, but then he really does look like the cock of the walk. Mr. Bell would certainly feel right at home in one of Jane Austen’s novels, but what part would he play? Darcy, Knightley, Willoughby? Although Mr. Bell is nothing like I have imagined Edward Ferrars to be, I'm throwing him and almost everyone else into the mix. Take my poll and we shall find out what you think. You may choose as many as you like. I encourage you to leave comments as to why you chose a particular gentleman.

Two Big Releases from Giants in the Land of Austen

Abigail Reynolds has released her latest Pride and Prejudice Variation, Mr. Darcy's Obsession, and is having a launch party to celebrate its publication. Also, Sharon Lathan is celebrating the publication of her fourth novel, In the Arms of Mr. Darcy. Please visit Austen Authors for more information on these two big events and the accompanying giveaways. By the way, you can tell how important these authors are because Sourcebooks gave their Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy a whole head. That is something I can only aspire to--hopefully, one day.

Also at Austen Authors is Jane Odiwe's report from Bath on the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. The festival opens with a Regency promenade, and the costumes are gorgeous. To whet your appetite, I am posting just two of the pictures accompanying the blog post, but you really must check them out for yourselves.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Venn Diagram

I thought this Venn diagram was a riot. It appeared last week on Austen Authors, but I thought I would kick off the week with a chuckle.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

One Hundred Best First Lines

The American Book Review has posted what they consider to be the best 100 opening lines. Guess who is in the top ten? But here is my favorite:

In the last years of the Seventeenth Century there was to be found among the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke, more ambitious than talented, and yet more talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes, and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping-point. —John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor (1960)

Thanks to Vic at Jane Austen's World  for finding this.