This week, we’re examining what Jane Austen has meant to us–and to say that Austen has informed every aspect of my subsequent reading and writing would not be an overstatement. In fact, Austen’s themes and style is present in my own writing even when I don’t realize it.
My romantic women’s fiction title, Vanity Fare, comes out in less than two weeks (Dec. 26), and some early reviewers are pointing out the similarities to Pride and Prejudice–more similarities than I even realized I had! I knew that I had put in a very Mr. Darcy moment when one of the characters rescues another from a bad financial situation. But there’s more Austen in there, as a review from Book Lovers, Inc. points out:
“In fact, it was clear to see many connections with Pride and Prejudice in the book, from the portrayal of Nick and Simon, to the financial mess Molly’s mother was going through. It was a modern take on the classic, albeit one that could stand on its own merits too.
As much as the story was about Molly finding a way to pay the bills and maybe find love, it was equally about Molly finding herself. Jane Austen’s generation might have tsk’d at the idea of this, but it was very cool to see Molly go from being dependent on her ex-husband to being able to speak for herself and find the strength within to become self-sufficient.”
While this example is both self-serving and timely, my Austen experience covers more than just my latest release. Austen embedded human truths within a deceptively simple read, and each reading, or viewing of the screen interpretations of her work reveals some new facet to the truths.
Thanks, Jane. You rock.
It’s the birthday of Josiah Wedgwood, born this day in 1730 (died January 3, 1795) the founder of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Pottery, a company still in existence although it’s now owned by a US company. Here are the UK and US websites.
Now Josiah is a bit of a hero for me. He was smart, hardworking, came from humble beginnings and was an abolitionist. What’s not to love? He was also the grandfather of Charles Darwin. Yesss!
Also, according to Wikipedia:
Wedgwood is credited as the inventor of modern marketing, specifically direct mail, money-back guarantees, traveling salesmen, self-service, free delivery, buy one get one free, and illustrated catalogues.
And it was his marketing acumen that came up with the idea of a logo and tagline (Am I not a Man and a Brother?) for the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. It became tremendously successful and was reproduced on pottery, jewelry, and other artefacts. (He probably didn’t actually design it himself, though.) As his friend and fellow abolitionist Thomas Clarkson said,
…ladies wore them in bracelets, and others had them fitted up in an ornamental manner as pins for their hair. At length the taste for wearing them became general, and thus fashion, which usually confines itself to worthless things, was seen for once in the honorable office of promoting the cause of justice, humanity and freedom…
He was interested in more than business or design, becoming involved with the science of pottery, and was a member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, a group of businessmen, scientists and philosophers, so named because they liked to meet on the night of the full moon, thus allowing them more time for talk and less for travel. He was elected a member of the Royal Society after he invented the pyrometer, a device to measure the extremely high temperatures in kilns during firing.
I could, but I won’t, fill this entire post of pics of Wedgwood’s work although he considered this, the Portland vase, his greatest work. It was a copy of a Roman intaglio vase, made of glass. Here’s his (on the left) and the original (on the right).
Another thing I really love about Wedgwood is how he ties into so much that’s fascinating about the Georgian period. Sir William Hamilton, later husband of Emma, first brought the Portland vase to England. Mrs. Radcliffe’s father managed the Bath Wedgwood showroom and one of her uncles was a business partner of Josiah’s. There are the Darwin and abolitionist connections. Jane Austen owned some Wedgwood, as she wrote in a letter to Cassandra in 1811:
On Monday I had the pleasure of receiving, unpacking and approving our Wedgwood ware. It all came very safely and upon the whole is a good match, tho’ I think they might have allowed us rather larger leaves, especially in such a year of fine foliage as this. One is apt to suppose that the Woods about Birmingham must be blighted.
So did her brother Edward, and some of his china is on display at Jane’s home, the Chawton House Museum. For more about Austen and Wedgwood, visit this wonderful post at austenonly.com.
And for a sneak preview of the cover of my next book, Hidden Paradise, go to Facebook!
Do you own any Wedgwood? I have a pair of earrings. I don’t know whether I’d want to own a whole set of his famous designs. They might be a bit overpowering… What do you think?
Last week I gave a quick overview of my visit to England and today I wanted to talk a little more about the visit to Chawton, where Jane Austen made her home for nine years, polished and wrote her novels, and hung out with vampires (next book!). Naturally I haven’t finished unpacking yet and some of the stuff will get tossed into the bigger suitcase for Nationals, for which I really didn’t buy any more clothes. Sorry. I leave all that to Amanda.
Before visiting Chawton, we went to St. Nicholas Church in Steventon, which is where Jane Austen’s father was vicar, a living taken over by one of Jane’s brothers. The house where they lived no longer exists, but the church still stands, a tiny, charming building.
Austen enthusiasts from all over the world have visited and contributed money to restore the church.
From there we went to Chawton, a place I hadn’t visited in about fifteen years so I was thrilled to see the changes there. The working areas of the house have been restored–the seventeenth century house was once a farm, so it has substantial outbuildings as well as a lovely garden.
The kitchen has been fitted out with a range which is early Victorian but not period, and to the left of it is a Rumsford stove, probably original. The bricks above the fire had holes into which pots could be lowered or placed above. (If you’re going to attend my presentation on servants at the Beau Monde Conference next week you’ll see these pictures again!)
I was struck by how tiny and crooked the rooms in the house were–probably less crooked two centuries ago! Very little family furniture remains, although there is a desk and two chairs in the parlor which came from Steventon. And of course the most famous writing table in the world is there too.
And here’s the last picture, the new cover for Jane and the Damned. When they told me it was going to be pink, I wasn’t very happy. I’m not a pink sort of girl and Jane Austen, as I depict her, wasn’t either. But I love it! Grubby pink works so well. What do you think?
Have you visited Chawton? What did you enjoy seeing there?