Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two New Austen Books: Fiction and Nonfiction

Laurel Ann has a review on Claire Harman's nonfiction work, Jane's Fame - How Austen Conquered the World. Meredith Esparza has a review of a modern retelling of Austen's Emma, The Importance of Being Emma, by Juliet Archer.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in Easter Peeps Show

For the past four years, The Washington Post has sponsored an Easter "Peeps" contest. Contestants make dioramas using Peeps chicks and rabbits. They range from President Obama's Inaugural Dance to the Mad Hatter's Peep Party and Hitchcock's "The Peeps." This year there is a "Peeps and Prejudice and Zombies." The diorama at left is called "Peep Show." On the right is "Paul the Plumber" with his butt crack showing, and below is "All we are saying, is give Peeps a chance." Click here for this year's winners. My favorite was the choir and bishop  in the Cathedral (or Peepthedral). If you have a favorite, come back and let me know what it is. I've already heard from one Mario Brothers fan.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Excellent Discussion on Austenprose of Sanditon Plus Fashion Plates

There is an excellent discussion about Austen's incomplete novel,  Sanditon, on Austenprose along with numerous fashion plates from the Regency Era with an expert who explains all of the details of the ladies's attire from head to toe. This series has already wrapped up, but it is well worth a visit. This is one of the best Austen blogs out there.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mr. Darcy's Letter at Hunsford - Short

As she had done every morning since her arrival at Hunsford Lodge, Elizabeth Bennet walked the grounds of Rosings Park. As she neared the main gardens, she would stop and briefly chat with Mr. Garvey, the head gardener, and he would tell her of all the work that was now being done so that Lady Catherine would enjoy the blooms of late summer. But this morning, with her rejection of Mr. Darcy’s offer of marriage forefront in her mind, she sought solitude and headed for her favorite spot, a small pond and the home to two swans and their four cygnets. Because she was totally taken in by this family of six gliding across the water, she did not hear Mr. Darcy coming down the path until he was almost upon her, but when she did see him, she groaned inwardly.

After yesterday’s awful scene at the parsonage, what could be his purpose in seeking her out, Lizzy wondered? Perhaps, he had come to expand on his list of reasons for not wanting to marry her—to tell her of another struggle he had to overcome, another hill he had to climb. His purpose was shortly revealed.

“Miss Elizabeth, will you do me the honor of reading this letter?” and after placing it in her hand, he departed, and she could hear the crunch of gravel as he walked in the direction of the manor house.

As soon as she was sure that Mr. Darcy could no longer see her, she broke the seal. It was obvious from all the ink stains that the letter had been written in haste, and it was quickly apparent that he had put pen to paper when he was still angry over her rejection of his proposal.

Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which were last night so disgusting to you. I write without any intention of paining you or humbling myself by dwelling on wishes which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten.

“Well stated, Mr. Darcy, and on this we are in complete agreement as it is my intention to put this unfortunate episode behind me as quickly as possible.”

The effort which the formation and perusal of this letter must occasion should have been spared had not my character required it to be written and read. You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention. Your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice.

“Justice? After all of his insulting remarks, he thinks he’s the injured party! Well, I shall read on and learn how I have erred.”

I had not been long in Hertfordshire before I saw that Bingley preferred your elder sister to any other young woman. But it was not till the evening of the dance at Netherfield that I had any apprehension of his feeling a serious attachment. I had often seen him in love before.

Lizzy reread the last sentence. “What did he mean he had often seen Mr. Bingley in love before? I don’t like that at all.”

From that moment I observed my friend’s behavior attentively, and I could then perceive that his partiality for Miss Bennet was beyond that I had ever witnessed in him.

“Now that’s better. I would not like to think that Mr. Bingley was honoring Jane with his attentions just because she was the prettiest girl in the neighborhood, and that he would soon forget her when he returned to town.”

Your sister I also watched. Her look and manners were open, cheerful, and engaging as ever, but without any symptom of regard. I was convinced from the evening’s scrutiny that though she received his attentions with pleasure, she did not invite them by any participation of sentiment.

“Good grief! What would he have her do? If Jane had shown any ‘symptom of regard,’ he would now be accusing her of being a flirt and of acting improperly.”

If you have not been mistaken here, I must have been in error. Your superior knowledge of your sister must make the latter probable. However, the serenity of your sister’s countenance and air was such as might have given the most acute observer a conviction that her heart was not likely to be easily touched. That I was desirous of believing her indifferent is certain.

Lizzy could feel the heat rising in her face. “How dare he set himself up as the person who would determine whether or not Jane was in love with Mr. Bingley. And how did he arrive at this conclusion? Had he made any attempt to converse with Jane, so that he might know her better? No, he had not, but if he had done so, he would have had a very different opinion of her. But worst of all, he has the audacity to admit that he wanted her to be indifferent. What a contemptible man he is.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Stolen Crown by Susan Higgibotham

A fellow Sourcebooks author has a new book out, The Stolen Crown. Here is a brief description:

When six-year-old Kate Woodville’s beautiful sister Elizabeth makes a shocking—and secret—marriage to King Edward IV in 1464, Kate and her large family are whisked to the king’s court. Soon a bedazzled Kate becomes one of the greatest ladies in the land when she marries young Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. But Kate’s fairy-tale existence as a duchess is shattered when the ongoing conflict between the houses of Lancaster and York engulfs the Woodville family.

As Edward IV fights to keep his crown, Harry’s relatives become hopelessly divided between Lancaster and York. Forced constantly to struggle with his own allegiances, Harry faces his defining moment when his dear friend Richard, Duke of Gloucester, determines to seize the throne for himself as Richard III. With lives in jeopardy and nothing less than a dynasty at stake, Harry’s loyalties—and his conscience—will be put to the ultimate test.

Lancastrians against Yorkists: greed, power, murder, and war. As the story unfolds through the unique perspective of Kate Woodville, it soon becomes apparent that not everyone is wholly evil—or wholly good.

The novel  is getting excellent reviews. Here is one from Jenny Loves to Read and another from Psychotic State.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Was Mr. Darcy Irish? and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

When you hear someone’s last name which starts with the prefix, “Fitz,” as in Fitzgerald, Fitzsimmons, Fitzpatrick, Fitzhenry, etc., you probably assume you are speaking to someone of Irish descent. So it is possible that Fitzwilliam Darcy was descended from a Hiberno-Norman family. And who exactly were the Hiberno (Irish) Normans (French) by way of England people? This group came to Ireland at the request of Diarmaid Mac Murchadha, aka Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, who had been given the heave-ho by TighearnĂ¡n Ua Ruairc. (Try and pronounce that!) These Hiberno-Normans liked what they saw of the Emerald Isle, decided to stay, and freely intermarried with the Irish and became “more Irish than the Irish.”

Richard FitzWilliam, 5th Viscount FitzWilliam (1677 – 1743) was an Irish nobleman and politician. He succeeded to the Viscountcy of FitzWilliam in 1704, and became a member of the Irish Privy Council in 1715. He was elected as a member of Parliament for Fowey, a rotten borough in Cornwall. Now, you’re probably thinking that Cornwall is a long way from Derbyshire. However, that was the beauty of rotten boroughs. You didn’t have to live anywhere near them.

It is possible that this branch of the Fitzwilliam family had come from Ireland and migrated north to Derbyshire where they put down roots. Being of Hiberno-Norman ancestry, they might have intermarried with another Norman family, the Darcys. So it is possible, if not likely, that Mr. Darcy is of Irish descent.
I am making this claim because I am of 100% Irish descent myself. However, I come from a long line of Catholic, Irish-speaking peasants, and so it is unlikely that any of my relations socialized with the Fitzwilliams. Even so, I am pretty sure that we are related. (If Mr. Collins, the heir to Longbourn, the home of Elizabeth Bennet, just so happens to be pastor to Lady Catherine, Mr. Darcy’s aunt, then I can be related to Mr. Darcy.) So let us lift a glass of Guinness to Fitzwilliam Darcy and acknowledge how fortunate he was to have been descended from a Son of Ireland.

Note: Here is an article on the portrait of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy which was auctioned at Bonham's in London for 12,000 pounds, twice the expected price.

P.S. Is Mr. Darcy's coat green or blue. I can't tell because I'm color blind. But if it is green, isn't that more proof that he's Irish?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Professional Bull Riding

I love going to an Arizona Diamondback baseball game, and although I haven't lived in the New York Metro area for 30 years, I still root for the New York Giants. However, my favorite sport is bull riding. You know the George Strait song, "Amarillo by Morning," where he sings, "I'll be looking for eight when they pull that gate, and I hope that judge ain't blind," the "eight" he is talking about is eight seconds. That is how long the cowboy has to stay on the bull. Eight very long seconds. I became a fan when I lived in Texas in the 1980s, and so on Sunday, all of my family went to the Professional Bull Riding competition in Glendale, Arizona, and it was absolutely terrific. For a couple of hours, you can pretend that the West is still wild and the cowboys are still at home on the range. I know that this has absolutely nothing to do with Jane Austen, but I thought I'd share anyway. By the way, there were cowboys from all over the U.S., Canada, Australia, and a big contingent from Brazil. At one time, there was a Frenchman, but he retired, but Europeans are welcome.

The picture above is of last night's winner, L. J. Jenkins, on Voodoo Child. Here is what Jenkins had to say in an interview after the ride: "Why would L.J. Jenkins pick Voodoo Child – a bull who had only been ridden once in 34 outs on the Built Ford Tough Series – when there were 10 other bulls to choose from? Why would he choose a bull who had bucked him off two weeks earlier in just 4.5 seconds?  'Everybody’s been wondering why I keep picking him,'” Jenkins said after riding Voodoo Child for 94 points to win the Glendale Invitational, 'but I knew something that everybody else didn’t. I knew I could ride the bull.'"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Federal Era – America in the Georgian Era

Although Jane Austen is forever associated with Regency England, she actually lived most of her life in the Georgian Era. In America, this time period is known by the much more democratic name of the Federal Period. During this time, a young nation looked to ancient civilizations for inspiration, and thus was born the Greek Revival in the United States.

An example of America’s enthusiasm for Greece, Rome, and Egypt can be seen in the names given to the cities established during this period: Troy, Attica, and Ithaca, New York, Alexandria, Virginia, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Athens and Rome, Georgia, among others. Its greatest and continuing impact can be seen in architecture. Country manor houses (see Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia above) were designed with Ionic and Doric columns and/or cupolas, such as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, New York Public Library and just about every 19th Century and early 20th Century state house.

America’s enthusiasm for all things Classical is the only possible explanation for Greenough’s sculpture of George Washington in toga-like draping. Commissioned by the U.S. Congress in 1832 in honor of Washington’s 100th birthday, it was modeled on the statue of Zeus in the temple on Mount Olympus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But a half naked sculpture of a man who had led America in its darkest hours during the Revolution and who was its first president had a real ick factor to most who viewed it in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Many Americans found the sight of a bare-chested Washington off-putting and even comical. According to the Smithsonian Press, “After the statue was relocated to the east lawn of the Capitol in 1843, some joked that Washington was desperately reaching for his clothes. In 1908, Greenough's statue finally came in from the cold, and Congress transferred it to the Smithsonian. It remained at the [Smithsonian] Castle until 1964, when it was moved to the new Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History). The marble Washington has held court on the second floor ever since.” The Father of His Country as a frat boy is a must see for anyone visiting the District of Columbia.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mary Bennet Assists Elizabeth - A Vignette

This was one of my first vignettes written for meryton.com. I wrote it before I rehabilitated Mary for a longer story. I have since decided that Mary got the short end of the stick in P&P. I, too, am a middle child, and I know how it goes.

Mary Bennet Assists Elizabeth

Upon hearing the letter carrier’s bell, Charlotte took out her coin purse so that she might pay the postman. She was not at all surprised to find that she had received a letter from Mary Bennet. In fact, Mary had become her most faithful and prolific correspondent. Charlotte was not sure how this epistolary friendship had come about, and it truly was a friendship that existed only on paper. When Charlotte had gone home to visit with her family at Lucas Lodge, Mary had made no attempt to see her even though they had been actively corresponding for months. Whatever its origins, it certainly turned out to be an interesting association.

The Lucas and Bennet families had always been close as their farms abutted one another. Charlotte, Jane, and Elizabeth, who were about the same age, had formed a tight-knit group all through their childhood, while it was Charlotte’s younger sister, Maria, who had been friends with Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. And, yet, here was another letter, the second of the week, penned by Mary, and relating all of the events taking place at Longbourn and in Meryton.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Matter of Some Delicacy

Every woman knows that when she goes just about any place where there is a crowd that she will end up standing on line for the restroom, but at least there will be a restroom. In the Regency Era, few houses had indoor toilets, and they relied on the chamber pot or the outdoor necessary. In the backstory for the 2003 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, it was noted that there were no indoor facilities, male or female, for the guests. As a result, a woman had to give a lot of thought to what she drank before and during an assembly or ball, such as the one that Charles Bingley hosted at Netherfield Hall, very much like we do before getting on an airplane. I assume that most women judiciously sipped their punch throughout the evening. Of course, for the men, a nice bush would suffice. Pictured to the right is a very pretty chamber pot from the Regency Era.