Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sense and Sensibility - Location, Location, Location

“In 1795, as Jane Austen was writing Elinor and Marianne, to be revised in 1797 and 1798 as Sense and Sensibility, Britons were experiencing the first financial crisis of Austen’s lifetime, the economic results of a harvest failure of biblical proportions.” Dr. Sheryl Craig in "The Economics of Sense and Sensibility"

This is the opening paragraph of one of the most interesting articles I have ever read about the economics of Jane Austen’s novels. The crop failure mentioned above affected everyone in England, but most especially the poor who were already struggling to get by. A population existing on the edge of starvation looked to benefactors and the government for assistance: “John Dashwood and the Members of Parliament initially promised to provide for those entrusted to their care, and surely it is no coincidence that Austen’s characters and her contemporaries were destined to be disappointed.”

What I did not realize when reading Sense and Sensibility was the importance of “place.” Norland, the Dashwood ancestral home, is located in Sussex. At the time S&S was written, “one in four people living in Sussex were classified as paupers. Another problem was that the taxes collected to aid the poor were being diverted…” and did not reach the poor.

The book's bad boy, John Willoughby, lives in Somerset, “a difficult county for the poor… The wages were low…, and the poor taxes were also low… Perversely, Willoughby is not only a wastrel, he is fully aware of the fact and yet unwilling to curb his excess.”

But there is an entirely different attitude toward the poor in Devon. The recently widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters are rescued by Sir John Middleton. “The reader’s first clue that Mrs. Dashwood’s relative is a very different kind of man [from her stepson John Dashwood] is the placement of Sir John in Devon. The poor rates of Devon were progressive and above the national average." An example given of the benefits of this progressive attitude toward the poor is that milk, considered a luxury in most of England, was a part of the daily diet of the people of Devonshire.

The people of Jane Austen’s time would have understood that by leaving the stingy John Dashwood and Sussex behind, the fortunes of the Dashwood women would improve in the more generous Devon. The placement of John Willoughby in Somerset was a hint that this man was going to be trouble for Marianne Dashwood.

S&S is all about "place" and possibly "name" as all three men whose lives interact with the Dashwood women are named "John."

I would recommend that you read Dr. Craig's entire essay which is available here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Newark Star Ledger - Review of Mr. Darcy's Bite

This review of Mr. Darcy's Bite from the Newark Star Ledger (New Jersey's largest newspaper) is a year old, but because Halloween comes around once a year, I thought I would rerun it. This review is particularly gratifying because the Newark Star Ledger was the paper my family read every Sunday when I was growing up in North Jersey. It had a TV guide before there was a TV Guide, and my sisters and I would fight over the insert to see what movies would be showing that week.

Now, where was  I? Oh, yes, the review. Here it is in its entirety.

This book is written with enough originality, whimsy and respect for Jane Austen’s style to make it stand out in the crowded field of Austen genre mash-ups. Simonsen revisits Darcy and Elizabeth’s tempestuous courtship and provides an explanation for Darcy’s erratic behavior: He’s a werewolf. Bitten on a childhood sojourn in Europe, Darcy has guarded his secret: He transforms at the full moon.
Because Simonsen carefully imagines how a werewolf nobleman would adapt to society and how that would play out with Austen’s characters, the story works as earnest rather than camp. After Darcy reveals his nature to Elizabeth, she must decide whether she still loves him. Simonsen’s characterizations are faithful to Austen, but engagingly playful with the possibilities of a werewolf double-life. His werewolf nature connects Darcy to the passions of the natural world, letting Simonsen ratchet up the couple’s romance. The classic love story between Elizabeth and Darcy holds firm, even if things do get a little hairy once a month.
Newark Star Ledger: Five Books You Will Be Able to Sink Your Teeth Into by Elizabeth Willse
Mr. Darcy's Bite is available from: Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Meet the Greatest Generation - My Family

During World War II, everyone pitched in. If you were a farmer, you worked longer and harder to grow more food for civilians and the military. If you were a miner, you dug more coal. If you were a little kid, you collected rubber and metal and saved aluminum gum wrappers. Women moved in droves to Washington to work as clerk typists, including my Mom, for the princely sum of $1,440 per year.  But if you were a male between the ages of 18 and 35, there's a good chance you were in uniform. From left to right: Uncle Joe, Aunt Mim, Uncle Tom, Aunt Ann, and friend.

Uncle Joe was on Omaha Beach on D-Day and Uncle Tom was on the USS Pompoon that was sunk off of Cuba. He survived, but most of his shipmates didn't. Aunt Mim and Aunt Ann worked as clerks in Washington. After the war, Mim went to work for the State Department in Berlin where she met her husband who had fought in a tank in the Battle of the Bulge. My father's cousin, Patrick Faherty, died when his ship was sunk off the Carolinas. Unfortunately, there is no picture of him. These are just a few of the dozens of pictures I have of my family's contribution to the war effort.

Uncle John (fifth from left) on Omaha Beach
D-Day +1

Uncle Joe (top left) with his crew on a B-17 bomber
Mom getting ready to leave Minooka, PA for
a job in Baltimore with defense contractor, Bendix
When she married my dad, she moved to D.C.
Aunt Mim in Berlin

Uncle Bobby - Army Air Corps

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lancaster Bomber - Darcy Goes to War

In Darcy Goes to War, Fitzwilliam Darcy is the pilot of a Lancaster, the premier bomber of the Royal Air Force. There is an interesting article with pictures on World War II Today which commemorates events that happened 70 years ago today during the Second World War. Darcy is a fictional character. This is the story of the real heroes who flew these missions.

Below is a photograph of a Lancaster bomber.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Launch of Mr. Darcy Goes to War and WWII Posters

Tomorrow, I am officially launching my newest Pride and Prejudice re-imagining, Darcy Goes to War on Austen Authors. Be sure to stop by for a chance to win one paperback or one e-book copy of my novel.

For me, the hardest part of publishing a book is creating the covers. Because I like to keep my prices as low as possible, I do not hire a cover designer, but with the help of my daughter, I do the covers myself. And that is why I am so proud of the cover for Darcy Goes to War! But a great cover is only as good as the image an author uses which is why I was so fortunate to find that the National Archives in Britain recently released dozens of World War II posters into the public domain. The poster I used, Barrage Balloons Over the Thames, is by artist Eve Kirk.

There is so much to see in this picture. The barrage balloons tell you that this is a country at war. Hundreds of balloons soared above London for the purpose of entangling Luftwaffe bombers or to snare the V-1 and V-2 rockets launched in 1944 and 1945. Despite the German air raids, the cranes, warehouses, and bustle of the ships show the port of London is alive and well, and the undamaged Tower Bridge represents the will of the British people to fight on. An aura of calm is created by the pastel palette. In my opinion, Ms. Kirk succeeded in putting on canvas a country that is fighting for its survival, but a nation that will prevail.

To see more British posters from World War II, click here.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Celebrate Labor Day - Thank a Worker

I am the great granddaughter of four coal miners, all Irish immigrants, who worked in the hard-coal country of eastern Pennsylvania. Two of them were killed in roof falls, and one died of pneumonia in his thirties. Both of my grandfathers worked at the coal breaker picking slate out of the coal chutes before they were 12. My father graduated with honors from the University of Scranton and worked in an office near Wall Street. From despair to success in three generations. Celebrate labor!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: The English, Portrait of a People

In Jeremy Paxman’s The English, A Portrait of aPeople, the author attempts to establish a national identity for the English, not British, people. With their Celtic roots, he argues that the Welsh and Scots have a strong “national” identity. The Welsh have managed to hold on to their language and their songs while the Scots have their bagpipes, Parliament, legal system, and field their own football teams in World Cup competitions. So what about the English?

Paxman traces the history of the British stereotype, beginning with the obese, meat-eating, ale-drinking John Bull in the 18th Century followed by the stiff-upper-lipped Englishman of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The latter stereotype is the result of the British public (private in the U.S.) school system in which boys are treated badly as a matter of course, made to eat vile or tasteless food, and are expected to just “take it.” Their training served them well in the two world wars. But what about their 21st century identity? That is the essence of the book.

For 266 pages, Paxman wanders the country in search of a national identity for the English, and in some cases, with amusing results. An editor and uber patriot, Roy Faiers, contends that you don’t have “to be English to be English.” “The actor James Stewart was an American, but he has Englishness.” By the time you get to the end of the book, you still have no sense of who a late 20th-Century Englishman is (other than he loves football and prefers lager). But in a country as ethnically diverse as England, is it even possible?

In the U.S., I have lived in the Northeast, Mid Atlantic, Southwest, and Texas (which is its own region). In Arizona, many of my friends are from the Midwest—refugees from the region's harsh winters. I can tell you that, like the English, it is difficult to say what a typical American is like. There are generalities: we are very patriotic and more religious than most Western nations, but you only have to look at our politics to see the great divide.

Although I enjoyed Paxman’s book, I was looking for something to hold on to—a Eureka moment where Paxman would reveal the true Englishman, but it never came. And so I ambled along. Because it was written 14 years ago, it is dated. But even in 1998, Paxman came up with very little to show for his efforts to find an English persona. I would think his task would be impossible today.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Rear of Charles I's Horse

When you see a road sign that says X miles to Salt Lake City or Toronto, do you wonder exactly where that spot is in Salt Lake or Toronto? If you have ever been curious about London and Paris, I can tell you where they are.

According to London Remembers, the backside of Charles’s horse “serves as the centre of London for the purposes of measuring distances.  Key “London” into Google Maps and this is where the pin is plonked. Also, supposedly, the street numbering convention is that the low numbers in a street should be at the end closest to this spot—a rule much observed in the breach.”

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book Review - Daughter of Time

It’s been awhile since I wrote a book review, but I just loved The Daughter of Time. It has a lot of things going for it: It was published the year I was born (1951), it is history driven, and it is short (just like my attention span of late).

The mystery begins with Detective Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard laid up in the hospital with a broken leg. Supremely bored, a friend brings him museum postcards with portraits of famous historical characters who have mysteries connected with them (e.g., Louis XVII, the son of the guillotined Louis XVI - did he survive his imprisonment in the Concierge during the French Revolution?). Inspector Grant settles on the portrait of Richard III, the English king everyone loves to hate—thanks in large part to Shakespeare.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bath - Where Classical Architecture Meets the Druids

During my parade of the Circus in Bath, I met Thomas, a historian who leads tours of the ancient Roman city. He was a fountain of information, including the fact that The Circus was meant to represent the sun while The Crescent was representative of the moon. When I got home, I looked it up. Here is what I learned from The Heritage Journal.

Bath is famed for its neo-classical architecture but what underpins the thinking of the 18th century architect John Wood the Elder when he drew the designs for The Circus is a strange mish-mash of legend and myth, this of course is the age of the new ‘druidism’ that took hold when such figures as William Stukeley called such places as Stonehenge the Druidical Temple.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Visit to Jane Austen Centre in Bath

Paul and Bath Guide
I arrived at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath on a day where it was umbrella up and umbrella down, umbrella up and umbrella down, etc. It was getting late in the day, and the tours had just ended. This is pretty much how my husband and I travel. We have not toured some of the best known tourist sites in the world. An example: When we were in Paris in 1985, it was Memorial Day weekend, just as in the States. We did not know that everything shuts down in France for the holiday, including the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, etc. It was suggested by a French woman that we visit the Arch de Triomphe where the U.S. Air Force band would be playing. Ah, the irony! (We did visit these sites on our most recent trip. We only had to wait 27 years!)

But back to the Centre. With their doors closing, I only had time to thank the greeter at the door, a handsome man dressed from top hat to Hessian boots, who is possibly the most photographed man in England. We picked up a map of locations of Bath’s great sites and the houses in which Austen had lived (one of them right down the street as it turns out). In looking around the gift shop, we noticed that the Centre was not averse to promoting the film and television adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, etc. Colin Firth was everywhere, including his portrait as Mr. Darcy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Personal Story of Decoration Day

My great great grandfather, William Mahady, was the first of my family to arrive in America. He left County Mayo in the northwest of Ireland around 1840, probably sailing from Queenstown (now Cork) in the far south. He made the voyage in a wooden ship with his older sister, Catherine. They arrived in New York City and traveled up the Hudson River where Catherine was employed as a domestic for a family who lived near West Point. William probably went to work on the D&H Canal that would eventually connect the coalfields of Pennsylvania with the Hudson River and New York City.

In 1854, when he married his wife, Mary Loftus, he was one of thousands of workers living in a workers’ camp near to the rails bein layed  for the D&H Railroad. In the 1860 census, he is living in Minooka, Pennsylvania, a coal-mining town south of Scranton where all my Irish ancestors from Cork and Galway would also settle. He was one of the first to inhabit this tiny hamlet.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Brighton Pavilion and George IV

I recently visited the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, and all I can say is that it is one heck of a place. The interiors are heavily influenced by British concepts of what they thought China looked like. The exterior definitely leans towards India, and the whole thing has the feel of one of those dreams you just can’t explain and wonder how these images ever got into your brain.

As a lover of history, I could not help but think of the vast, and I do mean vast, sums of money spent on this pleasure palace at a time when the country was in a financial crisis. These were the years after the end of the Napoleonic wars. The men who had marched and sailed against the Emperor of the French were now out of a job, and many of them were badly maimed and in need of medical attention and, most definitely, in need of financial assistance. Because England was no longer feeding large armies, prices for corn (any grain) and meat on the hoof had plummeted throwing farmers into bankruptcy and putting laborers on the road. Yet, here was their king acting like a kid with a Regency Era credit card.

Although the Pavilion is within easy walking distance of the beach, because the king’s presence attracted tourists to Brighton, George IV, growing fatter by the day, rarely went out in public. And it wasn’t as if he had an ocean view. His descendant, Victoria, noted that from her rooms only the slightest glimpse of the channel could be seen.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Louvre

I recently traveled to Paris with my husband and younger daughter, Kate, to visit the great museums and to walk one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But a funny thing happened on the way to a nighttime view of the Louvre. On May 6, the French went to the polls and elected a new president, Francois Hollande. We were out and about when the election results were announced. Our first hint that something big was about to happen was when car horns started going off. The second was when we were in the Place de la Concorde and found TV camera lights trained on US! We thought, "What a welcome!" But as the crowd grew, we realized that this was not a French welcoming committee. Before you knew it, the three of us were parading with thousands of  Parisians shouting "Vive le France!" We walked merrily along, enjoying the enthusiasm of the crowd, but when the numbers started approaching 10,000, we decided to leave the French to their celebrations. It was quite a night, the merrymaking going on for hours.

Can you find Paul, Kate, and me in the picture? I'll give you a hint. We are center right, just above the white marquee.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anniversary of La Marseillaise

Can you listen to the French national anthem without wanting to jump out of your seat? When you hear its pulsing rhythms, you can picture the men and women at the barricades ala Les Miserables? How about Victor Lazlo singing La Marseillaise at Rick's Saloon incurring the wrath of the Germans? This song causes you to react, which was the point. Below is the history of the anthem taken in its entirety from Wikipedia. (I didn't even bother to paraphrase.)

de Lisle singing his composition
for Mayor of Strousbourg
On 25 April 1792, the mayor of Strasbourg requested his guest. Rouget de Lisle. compose a song “that will rally our soldiers from all over to defend their homeland that is under threat.” That evening, de Lisle wrote Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin and dedicated the song to Marshal Nicolas Luckner, a Bavarian in French service from Cham. The melody soon became the rallying call to the French Revolution and was adopted as La Marseillaise after the melody was first sung on the streets by volunteers (fédérés) from Marseille. These fédérés were making their entryway into the city of Paris on 30 July 1792 after a young volunteer from Montpelier named Francois Mireur had sung it at a patriotic gathering in Marseille, and the troops adopted it as the marching song of the National Guard of Marseille. A newly graduated medical doctor, Mireur later became a general under Napoleon a nd died in Egypt at age 28.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Richard Trevithick - Who?

Trevithick's steam circus.
In 1808, Richard Trevithick (1771 - 1833) publicized his steam railway locomotive expertise by building a new locomotive called 'Catch me who can.' He ran it on a circular track just south of the present day Euston Square tube station in London. The site in Bloomsbury has recently been identified archaeologically as that occupied by the Chadwick Building, part of University College London.
Admission to the "steam circus" was one shilling including a ride and it was intended to show that rail travel was faster than by horse. However, the venture suffered from weak tracks and a lot of black smoke. Public interest was limited.
Trevithick was disappointed by the response and designed no more railway locomotives. It was not until 1812 that twin cylinder steam locomotives, built by Matthew Murray in Holbeck, successfully started replacing horses for hauling coal wagons on the Middleton Railway from Middleton colliery to LeedsWest Yorkshire.
If you look closely at the sketch or click on this link to see the enlarged photo on Wikipedia, you will note that many of the men are still sporting the old-fashioned coats worn by the "fops" and not the more stylish cutaway favored by Beau Brummell, a style of dress that we associate with Mr. Darcy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Napoleon and Mr. and Mrs. Darcy

Napoleon's Generals Conspire

After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, Napoleon withdrew back into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers and 40,000 stragglers against more than three times as many Allied troops. Paris was captured by the Coalition in March 1814.
When Napoleon proposed that the army march on the capital, his marshals decided to mutiny. On 4 April, led by Marshall Ney, they confronted Napoleon. Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, and Ney replied the army would follow its generals. Napoleon had no choice but to abdicate. He did so in favor of his son. However, the Allies refused to accept this, and Napoleon was forced to abdicate unconditionally on 11 April.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Was Mr. Darcy Irish?

by Mairie O'Loideain O'Simonsen

When you hear someone’s last name that 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 Tighearnán 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.”

Saturday, March 10, 2012

High Collars and the Regency Era

As I mentioned in the post below, At Home by Bill Bryson is full of fun historical facts including a paragraph about the clothing worn by the Prince Regent, the future George IV:

"Some of the fashion was dictated by the ever-increasing stoutness of the prince of Wales (or "Prince of Whales," as he was known behind his back). By the time he reached his thirties, the prince had taken on such a fleshy sprawl that he had to be forcibly strapped into a corset... All this pushed his upper body fat upward through the neck hole, like toothpaste coming out of a tube, so the very high collars fashionable in his day were a kind of additional mini corset designed to hide an abundance of chins and the floppy wattle of his neck."

Now you know. :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Clergy - Time for Other Things

I am currently reading At Home, A History of Private Life  by Bill Bryson, and it is chock full of interesting facts including the role of clergy in England: "Piety was not necessarily a requirement or even an expectation. Ordination in the Church of England required a university degree, but most ministers read classics and didn't study divinity at all... Many didn't even bother composing sermons, but just bought a big book of prepared sermons and read one out once a week. Though no one intended it, the effect was to create a class of well-educated, wealthy people who had immense amounts of time on their hands. In consequence, many of them began to do remarkable things:

George Bayldon, a vicar in remote Yorkshire, became a self-taught authority in linguistics and compiled the world's first dictionary of the Icelandic language.
Laurence Sterne vicar of a parish near York, wrote popular novels, including The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Take on Downton Abbey

Because so many bloggers have written their thoughts on the recently concluded Downton Abbey, I thought I’d chime in. Unlike Season 1, which was an outstanding drama on every level, Season 2 was a mixed bag.


The scripts – Frankly, the plots were terrible. In some cases, they were so bad that it affected the actors’ performances as with Lord Grantham and the maid. Even someone as talented as Hugh Bonneville wasn’t convincing as a man lusting after a servant. Why? Because he knew his character wouldn’t do that. The scripts gave him little to do except strut and pout, very unlike the Lord Grantham of Season 1.

Repetition: How many times can Lady Grantham put on hand lotion while O’Brien gossips? How many times can Daisy say her marriage to William was a fraud? How many times can Mary look longingly at Matthew, and vice versa? How many times can Thomas screw up?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Two Reviews for Captain Wentworth

It's not often I get two good reviews in one day for the same novel, but that was what happened yesterday at Diary of an Eccentric and Austenprose. Here are excerpts:

Diary of an Eccentric: Like Persuasion, Captain Wentworth Home from the Sea  is a sweet story about second chances.  I loved this book and was sad that it was so short....  I’d love to see this book expanded into a full-length novel!

Austenprose: Captain Wentworth Home from the Sea is a very pleasant diversion for Persuasion enthusiasts. Simonsen respects the intensity of Anne and Frederick’s love, and her alterations to Austen’s plot are neither extreme nor implausible. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review of Charles Dickens

For about a year, I knew Claire Tomalin’s biography of Charles Dickens would be released in 2012, the 200th anniversary of his birth. Because Dickens is tied with Jane Austen as my favorite author, I eagerly awaited its release.

Tomalin’s research is amazing. If I wanted to know where Charles Dickens was on any given day, there’s a good chance she wrote about it. This is no easy feat because the man was constantly on the move. With the success of the serializations of his novels, he had the money to travel back and forth to the Continent and to the United States as well. But what I wanted out of this biography was to get into the man’s head. I wanted to know what magic he used in creating Mr. Micawber, Mrs. Havisham, Uriah Heep, Pip, Fagin, the Artful Dodger, etc. But it is not in this book. Perhaps, it is not in any book.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Me? A Romance Novelist? I don't think so.

I'm posting today on Austen Authors. Are you a romantic? Practical? A practical romantic? Please let me know.

By the way, that is my wedding picture. Paul and I married on June 12, 1976. It is one of the few pictures I have because the person who took all the photos over-exposed the film. But I got the guy, and that's what matters.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Charles Dickens and the Heiress

Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts (21 April 1814 – 30 December 1906) was a nineteenth-century philanthropist, and the granddaughter of banker Thomas Coutts. In 1837, she became the wealthiest woman in England when she inherited her grandfather's fortune of nearly three million pounds sterling. She spent the majority of her wealth on scholarships, endowments, and a wide range of philanthropic causes. One of her earliest was to establish, with the novelist Charles Dickens, Urania Cottage, a home that helped young women who had turned to a life of immorality including theft and prostitution. By the time of her death, she had given more than £3 million to good causes. She was buried on 5 January 1907 near the West Door in the nave Westminster Abbey.*

In 1847, Dickens found a small, solid brick house near Shepherd’s Bush, then still a part of the countryside and surrounded by fields. The idea was to create a home environment rather than that of an institution. Miss Coutts funded the project for about £50,000 per annum in today’s money.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

4.5 Stars for Captain Wentworth - Home from the Sea

I'm so pleased with a review I received from Meredith at Austenesque Reviews for my novella, Captain Wentworth - Home from the Sea. Here is a part of her review:

My favorite aspect about this novella (and every novel I've read by Mary Simonsen) is her accurate renderings and illustrative augmentations of Jane Austen's characters. I adored Mrs. Simonsen's depiction of Anne; she was so patient and compassionate, and I enjoyed seeing her tender nature with Frederick.

To read the full review, please click here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Physiognomy and Jane Austen

While reading Patricia Meyer Spacks Annotated Pride and Prejudice, I read a footnote in reference to the following statement from Elizabeth (in speaking to Jane): “I can much more easily believe Mr. Bingley’s being imposed on, than that Mr. Wickham should invent such a history of himself as he gave me last night; names, facts, every thing mentioned without ceremony. If it be not so, let Mr. Darcy contradict it. Besides there was truth in his looks.”

My take on that quote was that Elizabeth believed Wickham’s tale because he was an accomplished liar and gave nothing away by his facial expressions. But according to Spacks, there was more to it than that:

“Interest in physiognomy, a pseudo-science that purports to read character from facial expression, was widespread in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries... Joseph Kaspar Lavater, a Swiss clergyman, wrote an extensive treatise on the subject (1778). Translated into English in 1793, it exercised considerable influence. Austen, however, is skeptical. A propensity to judge people on the basis of their looks turns up again in Emma, where Emma’s initial enthusiasm for Harriet Smith is based mainly on the girl’s “soft blue eyes” and her “look of sweetness.” Both Elizabeth and Jane have consistently cited Wickham’s looks as evidence of his amiability and authenticity.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review of Becoming Elizabeth Darcy

May I brag? I received a wonderful review from Kimberly at Reflections of a Book Addict for Becoming Elizabeth Darcy. Here is part of it:

I feel that Simonsen has a great balance between these themes of humor and seriousness, and this makes the novel an exciting and fulfilling addition to the fan fiction world.  Simonsen has once again shown that she can tackle any JAFF genre and is a force to be reckoned with.  I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

Thank you, Kimberly. I hope you will stop by and read the entire review.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Daylesford House, Gloucestershire, Chimney-piece

Daylesford House, Gloucestershire Chimneypiece*

A night of entertainment at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Phillips:

When this information was given, and they had all taken their seats, Mr. Collins was at leisure to look around him and admire, and he was so much struck with the size and furniture of the apartment, that he declared he might almost have supposed himself in the small summer breakfast parlour at Rosings; a comparison that did not at first convey much gratification; but when Mrs. Phillips understood from him what Rosings was, and who was its proprietor, when she listened to the description of only one of Lady Catherine's drawing-rooms, and found that the chimney-piece alone had cost eight hundred pounds, she felt all the force of the compliment, and would hardly have resented a comparison with the housekeeper's room.

I think even Lady Catherine would have been impressed by this chimney-piece. Jane Austen visited Daylesford in 1806. It was the home of Warren Hastings, the first Governor General of India.